Javid launches Housing White Paper

Communities secretary Sajid Javid last month launched the long awaited Housing White Paper which he says includes plans “to fix the broken housing market”.

The paper contains proposals to speed up housebuilding, promote modern methods of construction, help smaller builders to get into the market, use land more efficiently and amend planning rules so councils can plan for more build to rent housing.

Javid said: “The housing market in this country is broken and the solution means building many more houses in the places that people want to live. The only way to halt the decline in affordability and help more people onto the housing ladder is to build more homes. Let’s get Britain building.”

The paper details a series of steps that may be taken by government, local authorities and the industry to “fix” the market. These steps include:

• Planning for the right homes in the right places
• Building homes faster
• Diversifying the market

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said: “The White Paper requires all parties involved in housing supply to up their game. The industry is determined to meet the challenges laid down by government and help deliver more homes more quickly.”

In an article in this month’s Housebuilder (see Page 17), Baseley acknowledges that the document has not received universal acclaim and that it was “unlikely to live up to the expectation that surrounded it.” But, he says, once there has been time to absorb the numerous areas it covers “people will come to realise that it is not as lightweight as some have accused it of being” and actually represents a massive package of change.

Tom Nicholson, divisional chairman at Linden Homes, welcomed several aspects of the document: “We welcome the commitment to require local authorities to speed up plan making, keep these plans under regular review and where necessary intervene to ensure plans are produced. The intention to introduce ‘Assessment of Housing Need’ and ‘Housing Delivery Assessments’ are also notable improvements to the current inconsistent approach being taken across the UK.”

Spencer McCarthy, chairman and ceo at Churchill Retirement Living, said: “We were very disappointed not to see the White Paper include a proposal to remove stamp duty for downsizers. For all the talk and all the promises, the government needs to take more action to help the 8 million over 60s who are interested in downsizing.”

Shadow housing minister John Healey called the White Paper “feeble beyond belief” saying: “Really? Is that it? We hoped for better and needed better.”

And Carl Dyer, national head of planning at solicitor Irwin Mitchell, said: “After all the pre-briefing and the hype, this is a profound disappointment. There was talk of this being a game changer. It isn't. What we have is a surrender to the nimbys.”

The Housing White Paper – “feeble” or a “game changer”?

Right homes in the right places

Proposals in the White Paper include:
• Making sure all areas have an up to date realistic housing plan
• Making plan-making easier and more transparent
• Greater transparency over who owns land
• Maximising brownfield and public land availability
• Maintaining green belt protections
• Giving communities a stronger voice in design
• Encouraging higher densities near transport hubs and in urban areas of high housing demand

Antony Stark, director of Linea Homes, said: “If the government is serious about speeding up the housebuilding process it must address the slow, ineffective planning system that is, more often than not, a road block to housebuilding.”

Building homes faster

Proposals include:
• Holding local authorities to account through a new housing delivery test
• Holding developers to account with more transparency and sharper tools to drive up delivery
• Providing greater certainty for authorities that have planned for new homes
• Boosting local authority capacity and capability to deliver, deterring unnecessary appeals
• Targeting the £2.3 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund and government investment to boost infrastructure
• Securing timely connections to utilities
• Tackling unnecessary delays caused by planning conditions, facilitating the strategic licensing of protected species and exploring a new approach to how developers contribute to infrastructure
• Addressing the skills shortage by growing the construction workforce

David Jackson, Savills head of planning, said: “Ensuring that local authorities have adequate resources is a key component improving the planning process and speeding up delivery. The proposed increase in planning fees needs to be dedicated to improving local authority planning services. “

Diversifying the market

Proposals include:
• Backing SMEs to grow through the Home Building Fund
• Supporting housing associations and local authorities to build more homes
• Encouraging modern methods of construction in housebuilding
• Bringing in new contractors through the Accelerated Construction Programme
• Encouraging more institutional investors into housing including for building for private rent and encouraging family-friendly tenancies

Martin Skinner, chief executive at Inspired Asset Management, said:
“SME developers need to reach 50% off-plan sales before lenders will release development finance – and that means we rely on buy to let investors to get projects off the ground. So the recent attack on the sector has made it harder for us to fund new developments. We hope that some of the £3 billion Home Building Fund will filter through to developers like us. SME developers are key to unlocking smaller sites and delivering new homes as quickly as possible.”

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