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08/02/2017

Housing White Paper: Announcements, Analysis and Reaction

Written by James Wood

Senior Account Executive

The Government has published its Housing White Paper, Fixing our broken housing market, in which it sets out how it intends to boost housing supply. The Government claims that the White Paper addresses the issues which are preventing it from hitting its house-building targets, providing a long-term strategy to build the homes the country needs.

The Government argues that its long-term strategy hinges upon the partnership between central and local government and developers. The White Paper sets out the measures the Government hopes will enhance the capacity of local authorities and industry to build a greater number of new homes.

Alongside this, the White Paper also seeks to address housing need and aspiration in the shorter term. This includes support for people to buy or rent their home and improving options for older people.

The Government is seeking the views from the sector on the proposals included in the White Paper, and is accepting responses until Tuesday 2nd May 2017.

What measures does the White Paper include?

Changes to Local and Neighbourhood planning

  • Simplify plan-making and make it more transparent, so it’s easier for communities to produce plans and easier for developers to follow them
  • Ensure that every authority is covered by a plan, but remove the expectation that they should be covered by a single local plan
  • Require local authorities to review their plans and housing need on a regular basis
  • Strengthen national policy so that local planning authorities are expected to have clear policies for addressing the housing requirements of groups with particular needs, such as older and disabled people
  • Ensure that local authorities have a clear strategy to maximise the use of suitable land in their area
  • Amend the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to give local authorities the opportunity to have their housing land supply agreed on an annual basis, and fixed for a one year period
  • Confirm that, where communities plan for housing through a neighbourhood plan, these plans should not be deemed out-of-date unless there is a significant lack of land supply for housing in the wider local authority area
  • Make available £25m of new funding to help ambitious authorities in areas of high housing need to plan for new homes and infrastructure

Building on brownfield and public sector land

  • Expect local planning authorities to have policies that support the development of small ‘windfall’ sites
  • Amend the NPPF to indicate that great weight should be attached to the value of using suitable brownfield land within settlements for homes
  • Indicate that great weight should be given to using small undeveloped sites within settlements for homes

Protecting Green Belt land

  • Authorities should amend Green Belt boundaries only when they can demonstrate that they have examined fully all other reasonable options
  • The Government will explore whether higher contributions can be collected from development as a consequence of land being released from the Green Belt

House design and density

  • Strengthen the importance of early pre-application discussions
  • Make clear that design should not be used as a valid reason to object to development where it accords with clear design expectations set out in statutory plans
  • Make efficient use of land and avoid building homes at low densities where there is a shortage of land for meeting identified housing requirements
  • Local and neighbourhood plans should set out clear design expectations following consultation with local communities. This will provide greater certainty for applicants about the sort of design which is likely to be acceptable

Addressing the skills shortage

  • The Government will start by reviewing the Construction Industry Training Board’s purpose, functions and operations. The review will report in the spring and ensure that developers benefitting from public funding use the projects to train the workforce of the future
  • The apprenticeship levy will come into effect from April 2017

Speeding up housing delivery

  • Consult on introducing a fee for making a planning appeal
  • The Government will increase nationally set planning fees. Local authorities will be able to increase fees by 20% from July 2017 if they commit to invest the additional fee income in their planning department
  • The Government are also minded to allow an increase of a further 20% for those authorities who are delivering the homes their communities need. The government will consult further on the detail
  • The Government will examine the options for reforming the system of developer contributions including ensuring direct benefit for communities, and will respond to the independent review and make an announcement at Autumn Budget 2017
  • The Government will roll out a successful pilot scheme surrounding the approach to streamlining the licensing process for protected species, including great crested newts
  • Target the £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund at the areas of greatest housing need
  • Subject to further consultation, propose to require large housebuilders to publish aggregate information on build out rates
  • Amend national planning policy to encourage local authorities to consider how realistic it is that a site will be developed, when deciding whether to grant planning permission for housing development, on sites where previous permissions have not been implemented
  • The Government is interested in views on whether an applicant’s track record of delivering previous, similar housing schemes should be taken into account by local authorities when determining planning applications
  • Consider the implications of amending national planning policy to encourage local authorities to shorten the timescales for developers to implement a permission for housing development from the default period of three years to two years, except where a shorter timescale could hinder the viability or deliverability of a scheme
  • Prepare new guidance to local planning authorities following separate consultation, encouraging the use of their compulsory purchase powers to support the build out of stalled sites

Housing associations

  • The Government will set out, in due course, a rent policy for social housing landlords (housing associations and local authority landlords) for the period beyond 2020 to help them to borrow against future income

Promoting affordable housing

  • Broaden the definition of affordable housing, to include a range of low cost housing opportunities for those aspiring to own a home, including starter homes. The definition would also include a definition for affordable private rented housing
  • Work with local authorities to understand all the options for increasing the supply of affordable housing

Diversification of the house-building market

  • The Accelerated Construction Programme will support the market through the partnering with small and medium-sized firms and others as development partners and contractors
  • The Government will publicise their Help to Buy equity loan scheme to small and medium-sized builders to encourage uptake
  • To support custom builders the Government will promote the National Custom and Self Build Association’s portal for Right to Build
  • They will also ensure that the exemption from the Community Infrastructure Levy for self-build remains in place while longer term reforms to the system of developer contributions are being explored
  • The Government have launched a consultation on changing the NPPF to support and to increase the number of new Build to Rent homes, and the provision of Affordable Private Rent homes as the main form of affordable housing provision on Build to Rent scheme

Encouraging the development of starter homes

  • The Government have said they have listened to concerns that the mandatory requirement of 20% starter homes on all developments over a certain size will impact on other affordable homes
  • Make clear through the NPPF that starter homes, like shared ownership homes, should be available to households that need them most, with an income of less than £80,000 (£90,000 for London). Eligible first time buyers will also be required to have a mortgage
  • Amend the NPPF to introduce a clear policy expectation that housing sites deliver a minimum of 10% affordable home ownership units
  • Change the NPPF to allow more brownfield land to be released for developments with a higher proportion of starter homes
  • The £1.2 billion Starter Home Land Fund will be invested to support the preparation of brownfield sites to support these developments

Helping 200,000 people to become new homeowners by May 2020

  • The Government launched the £3 billion Home Building Fund on 3 October 2016, and continues the Housing Growth Partnership with Lloyds Banking Group. The Home Building Fund will provide £1 billion of short-term loan finance targeted at SMEs, custom-builders and innovators to deliver up to 25,000 homes this parliament; and a further £2 billion of long-term loan funding for infrastructure and large sites, unlocking up to 200,000 homes

The full Housing White Paper, Fixing our broken housing market, can be read online here.

A range of accompanying documents, responses to previous consultations and previously commissioned independent reports have also been published by the Government, in addition to the White Paper. These are available here.

Opposition reaction

Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, John Healey MP said: 

“It is tragically clear from this feeble white paper that seven years of failure on housing under Conservative ministers is set to stretch to ten.

“We were promised a white paper; we’ve got a white flag.

“This is a government with no plan to fix the country’s deepening housing crisis.”

Industry reaction

Home Builders Federation

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation said:

“The industry is determined to meet the challenges laid down by Government and help deliver more homes more quickly. We will look to work with Government on the detail of the measures announced today to ensure they will lead to many more new homes being built in the coming years.

“Plans to speed up the planning process, bring forward more developable land and make Local Authorities abide by their responsibilities are key. If we are to build more homes, we need more land coming through the system more quickly. Measures that will allow SME builders to build more homes will increase the capacity of the industry and result in increases in overall supply.”

National Housing Federation

David Orr, Chief Executive at the National Housing Federation said:

"We welcome this Government’s ambition to tackle our broken housing market. Today’s positive announcements – combined with the Autumn Statement’s increased flexibility and extra investment – point towards a more comprehensive and strategic framework to fix the housing crisis. However, what the nation needs now is unwavering political will and courage to see this through. The public backs building more homes - it is time to get on with the job.”

Chartered Institute of Housing

Terrie Alafat CBE, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said:

“It’s particularly pleasing to see the government recognise the need for a broader range of organisations to build new homes, especially the crucial role of local authorities in delivering the housing we need – something we’ve consistently called for. However our concern is that much housing remains out of reach for a significant number of people and we would like to see the government back up the package of measures announced today with additional funding and resource in the budget.”

Local Government Association

Martin Tett, housing spokesman at the Local Government Association, said:

"This White Paper includes some encouraging signs that government is listening to councils on how to boost housing supply and increase affordability. Communities must have faith that the planning system responds to their aspirations for their local area, rather than simply being driven by national targets. To achieve this, councils must have powers to ensure that new homes are affordable and meet their assessments of local need, are attractive and well-designed, and are supported by the schools, hospitals, roads and other services vital for places to succeed. Giving councils the power to force developers to build homes more quickly and to properly fund their planning services are vital for our communities to prosper."

CBI

Rhian Kelly, infrastructure director of the CBI business group, said:

"The intention to deliver a diverse mix of homes – especially affordable homes to rent – is particularly good news. We have called for the 'one size fits all' approach to housing to be ditched, and are glad to see a move to building the right homes in the right places that fit the actual needs of people and communities. It’s encouraging the Government is looking at how to make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to succeed in the market.”

IPPR

Luke Murphy, IPPR senior research fellow on housing, said:

"IPPR welcomes the launch of the government’s White Paper which is the first for a nearly decade. However, while many of the reforms that have been proposed are welcome, if the government is serious about building the homes our country needs then it needs to go much further.”

housing, Planning, Housing Minister, UK Government, Housing White Paper