Today sees the slightly late delivery of the government white paper which hopes to ease through new parliamentary bills that will help government take control of the run-away housing market and [perceived] shortage of new homes. Its publication had taken a back seat to Brexit negotiations last-year but hopefully this doesn’t mean it will be a paper full of weak or badly thought-out policy recommendations.
The current land allocation process operates in a 5-year cycle with an initial call-for sites (where land-owners can put forward plots of plan for consideration) which is preceded by a council led site allocation and then finally the concept plans and planning applications. Unfortunately this process encourages speculative planning applications (developers trying their luck) and site allocations without development (landowners & developers using the whole process to trigger town settlement boundaries adjustments to increase the development potential and thus value of the land).
Not only is the current process failing to deliver suitable sites at the desired rate it is also massively under-delivering affordable homes and the infrastructure required to sustain the developments (roads, public transport links, schools, GPs etc.).
It is now reality that an entire generation could be left behind in the struggle to put a roof over their families heads and the current state of the housing market is not economically or sociably sustainable.
Government has pledged to build 1 million new homes in England by 2020 and rather than focusing on starter homes as a solution to the shortage of affordable housing to look at much wider range of alternatives.
Proposed Measures in the white paper include
- Forcing councils to take more direct responsibility for measuring local housing demand.
- Extended compulsary purchase powers for local authorities to step in and discourage land-banking.
- Encouraging developers away from preferring to build “premium low density” housing where land availability is short.
- Maintaining protection for the green belt and ancient woodland, which can only be built on “in exceptional circumstances” while also encouraging the development of brown-field sites within the green-belt where appropriate.
- Reducing the grace period of planning permission to two years instead of three.
- Starter-homes aimed at families with a combined income of less than £80k (£90k in London).
- The introduction of a £3 billion fund to incentivise smaller developers or alternative building methods (i.e. prefabricated homes).
- A “lifetime ISA” to help first-time buyers save for their deposit.
- Changes to Leasehold terms and how/which new properties are sold Leasehold.
- Introduction of minimum tenancy lengths for private rentals.