Housing white paper 2017
Admitting that the current market is ‘broken’, the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, said: “there is a serious problem … and the cause is simple; we are not building enough new homes.”
The government estimates that at least 250,000 new homes are needed every year to meet demand. Key to the new strategy is giving councils the powers to pressurise developers to start building on land they own, reducing the time between planning permission and start of building from three to two years.
The white paper presents the proposed measures as four steps:
Step 1 – Planning for the right homes in the right places:
- Forcing councils to produce an up-to-date plan for housing demand.
- Simplifying plan-making, making it easier for communities to produce plans.
- Better use of land by encouraging higher densities in urban locations,
- Maintaining existing strong protection for the Green Belt, which can only be built on in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
- Councils can increase planning fees by 20%.
Step 2 – Building homes faster:
- Expecting developers to avoid ‘low-density’ housing where land availability is short.
- Reducing the time allowed between planning permission and the start of building from three years to two.
- Taking steps to address skills shortages by growing the workforce.
- Holding developers and local authorities to account.
Step 3 – Diversifying the market:
- Using a £3bn fund to help smaller building firms challenge major developers, including support for off-site construction.
- Bringing in new contractors through the Accelerated Construction programme to build homes more quickly.
- Encouraging more institutional investors into housing.
Step 4 – Helping people now
- A ‘lifetime ISA’ to help first-time buyers save for a deposit.
- Introducing banning orders ‘to remove the worst landlords or agents from operating’.
- Continuing to crack down on empty homes and supporting areas most affected by second homes.
Crucially, the white paper abandons the government’s manifesto pledge to build 200,000 Starter Homes by 2020. Instead, new homes will be delivered through a combination of existing programmes such as shared ownership, Help to Buy and Right to Buy.
The government has also dropped its plans to require developers to make 20% of all new sites Starter Homes in lieu of other affordable housing. Instead, only 10% of all sites will be required to be affordable homes, with the percentage of Starter Homes set by the local council.
In response, Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister John Healey called the measures “feeble beyond belief”, saying; "We hoped for better and we needed better ...We were promised a White Paper; we are presented with a white flag."
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB suggested one of the biggest game changers was the announcement that councils will be allowed to increase planning fees by 20%, suggesting it would be cautiously welcomed by SME housebuilders. He went on to say; "In too many places, the approach to planning for new homes has come to be focused almost entirely on large sites and large-scale delivery. This approach has slowed down the delivery of homes, and has helped shape an uncompetitive housebuilding industry and an unresponsive supply of housing – this has to end.”
Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive, UK-GBC said; “Whilst delivering a significant quantity of homes is crucial, so too is delivering high quality homes. If we do not aim for zero carbon standards now, we will likely need to go back and retrofit these buildings in just ten years’ time in order to meet our carbon targets.”
Tassos Kougionis, Principal Consultant – Residential, at BSRIA’s Sustainable Construction Group, said; “BSRIA welcomes this timely and very important ‘radical blueprint for change’. This heralds a new era for housing, with fresh opportunities for members and industry alike. But we must not forget that building homes is a matter of quality as well as quantity. Our current focus on delivering volume makes quality more important than ever. Government, industry and stakeholders all need to work together to guarantee that communities’ needs and wellbeing are at the very centre of our decisions. Indeed, that these new homes will be well thought through and designed accordingly."
RIBA president-elect Ben Derbyshire said; “The shortage of developable sites available to buy for new entrants to the markets remains one of the biggest barriers to development. It hits small developers particularly hard and is pushing the price of land up to stratospheric levels. If the government finds evidence that developers are deliberately stockpiling land or delaying build out rates then we hope this will be taken seriously.”
Andrew Jones, leader of Aecom’s design, planning & economics practice, said; “The absence of a comprehensive review of the greenbelt is a missed opportunity and central government should have been bolder on this issue... Selected greenbelt sites can play a valuable contribution to the additional supply of new homes. Leaving responsibility for decisions that affect the greenbelt wholly with local authorities plays well to local decision-making, but is unlikely to bring forward new schemes quickly.
"While the original purpose of the greenbelt is still valid and protection of the most important land must be maintained or enhanced, there are significant portions of brownfield and other low-environmental value land close to transport links within the greenbelt that are ripe for development.”
Matthew Weiner, Chief Executive of U+I said; "There is much in the Housing white paper that will help local authorities and developers build more homes in the long-term, but the overall approach fails to address the urgency of the need for a solution. We need to take the lead, move quickly and reassess the fundamentals of how we do development in the UK." For more, see UandI response to Housing white paper.
The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) expressed concern that "...these measures may not be sufficient to mitigate for years of under investment and resources need to be made available to enable the LPAs to cope with the demands the new Government policies outlined today will place on them."
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