Government white paper aims to reform Britain’s housing market
A Government housing white paper published on 7th February 2017 proposes 4 key steps with the aim of setting Britain on the road to fixing its housing market. The paper cites the pace of development and lack of growth planning by local councils as examples of how the market has stalled in recent years.
The four proposed measures are summarised below:
Insist councils keep an up-to-date plan in line with growth in their area
According to the white paper, a critical homebuilding issue is that ‘over 40% of local planning authorities’ haven’t agreed a formal agenda to meet projected growth in their local area. It’s implied that this leads to ‘speculative development’ as councils aren’t entirely sure what the housing needs are for the area. In a bid to combat this, the white paper states the Government will consult to create a standard methodology across all councils that can be applied to the housing needs of each area, making more land available in the right locations, and giving communities a voice on the quality and character of the homes being built. Increased transparency on land ownership is also proposed, enabling local communities to see where land is suitable for housebuilding and where that land has been acquired but isn’t being built on.
Increase the pace of homebuilding
Developing new communities is as much a focus on facilities and amenities as it is about homes. The Government expects new developments to fail without enough school places, GP surgeries or the right infrastructure. To combat this, the paper proposes investment in the planning system with the £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund, removal of unnecessary delays by supporting links to utilities during the building process and ensuring that housing developers are held to account. This is expected to contribute to a faster pace of housebuilding, which will be needed if Britain is to meet its target of at least 225,000 houses built per year to support population growth and the reduction of the existing deficit.
Open up the housebuilding market to smaller players, not just big developers
The 2017 housing white paper recommends diversification of the housing market, opening it up to smaller builders and those who build in less conventional ways. ‘Those who embrace innovative and efficient methods’ such as PassiveHouse builders, modular constructors, timber-frame builders or self-builders will all benefit under this brief as the measures will make it easier for these groups to contribute. Housing supply will also be aided by the Government encouraging local authorities to build themselves, encouraging investment in the private rental sector and promoting modular homes as well as other modern methods of construction.
Help people now whilst preparing for the future
“Fixing our broken housing market” cannot be achieved overnight, as is outlined by the long-term measures recommended in the paper. However, the Government does describe its final step as a measure to help people now by supporting the housing market in the short-term. By enabling first-time buyers with the Help to Buy scheme and Starter Homes, the Government sets out plans to make renting fairer, assist families priced out of the housing market, and ‘improve neighbourhoods by continuing to crack down on empty homes’.
The full ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ Government white paper is available for download alongside supporting technical documents. Also available are the reports, consultations and evidence to support this paper.