Housing White Paper Cover

Javid: Our housing market is broken

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid launched the long-awaited housing White Paper in the House of Commons today, outlining the Government’s strategy to speed up the planning process, and increase the number of new homes being built.

Speaking to the Commons, Javid said: “Thanks to the concerted efforts of central and local government, last year 190,000 new homes were completed, but that’s still not enough. To meet demand, we have to deliver between 225,000 and 275,000 homes every year.

“In short, we have to build more of the right houses in the right places, and we have to start right now. Today’s white paper sets out how we will go about doing so. But house building doesn’t just happen. Meeting the unique needs of different people and different places requires a co-ordinated effort across the public and private sector.

“This means there’s no one single magic bullet that can fix the problem. Rather, we need action on many fronts simultaneously.”

The 104-page document outlines a raft of measures that the Government is proposing to boost housebuilding, by pushing councils towards tighter plans and faster approvals, increasing available land, and monitoring land ownership to avoid land banking.

The proposals include:

  • Higher fees and new capacity funding for planning departments to make approvals quicker, and allow for simplifed plan-making and more funding for infrastructure
  • Making it easier for local authorities to take action against those who do not build once permission is granted
  • Clarifying what land is available, with greater transparency over who owns it to ensure accountability
  • Making more land available, by releasing more surplus public land, and maximising brownfield options
  • Maintaining strong protections for the Green Belt
  • Encouraging higher density of development in urban locations and reviewing space standards
  • Government intervention where councils are not making sufficient progress on producing plans
  • Housing delivery test to show areas where the number of homes being built is below expectation
  • Encouraging different methods of construction, such as off-site
  • Accelerated construction loan programme for small and medium-sized builders
  • Frameworks for investment, including products for rent, to appeal to lenders and institutional investors
  • Exploring improved approach to developer contributions to pay for new infrastructure
  • Longer rental tenancies, increased to three years, to give families security

Industry reacts

Ian Anderson, executive director of Iceni Projects, said: “Today’s long-awaited silver bullet into the housing market is sadly nothing of the sort. It’s a great synopsis of a crisis with almost nothing to actually effect change.

“The technicalities of the planning system may make for a less-than sexy headline, but putting much needed resources into planning departments is the only way to deliver on the ambitions of the White Paper, such as they are. Planning departments have been hit especially hard by local authority cuts, a trend unlikely to reverse. The White Paper itself acknowledges the problems caused by our insufficiently skilled and resourced planners.

“The Government is right to acknowledge England’s housing crisis; it is a pity that nothing in today’s White Paper will turn things around.”

David George, head of the Manchester office of Falconer Chester Hall, said: “The White Paper is encouraging more high density urban developments in areas where there is demand for housing. This aligns with Manchester’s current residential market activity with high density developments already coming forward in and around the city centre. It’s interesting to see the reduction from three to two years for implementation of planning permissions as this will encourage construction and discourage land banking, and I believe this will have an impact on the design approach to some schemes.”

Nicola Rigby, director in the planning, development and regeneration team at GVA’s Manchester office, said: “The UK needs more housing built of every kind, and critically, this housing needs to be constructed at pace. There is an issue with bringing forward big sites quickly; there’s a need for a greater variety of sites (some small) to come forward in order to deliver more housing, more quickly.

“We are currently too dependent on a small number of large developers building new homes, which is limiting the range of sites and housing types being delivered. Increased diversity in the organisations that are delivering new housing is crucial to improving the choice and quality of housing being built, as well as boosting the industry’s ability to deliver on Government targets. Public sector-owned land is also likely to be critical to this.”

Andrew Teague, associate in Cushman & Wakefield’s Manchester office, said: “The government must be clear that until the provisions of the suggested standardised approach for assessed housing requirements are formally introduced, Local Planning Authorities must continue to calculate and publish their housing needs and requirements against industry standard approaches. Without this clarity, the impacts of an emerging methodology for calculating objectively assessed need may slow or otherwise delay the production of Local Plans, particularly in those areas where the precise methodology of calculating the OAN within the emerging Local Plan documents is a contentious issue, for example, Fylde and Greater Manchester. In such cases, the examination may be delayed, or the emerging Local Plan subject to an early review, to accommodate the standardised methodology for assessing the OAN.”

Gary Halman, managing partner of HOW Planning, said: “There’s no silver bullet in the Government’s housing White Paper, but plenty of sticks and carrots which works for a wide range of housebuilders and landowners promoting major residential development.

“The Government is clear that it’s going to take a strong alliance of interests – local authorities, developers and communities to mend the broken housing market, and whilst national policy can support and encourage, it can’t solve things on its own.

“Measures to simplify and speed up the local plans system will only work if there is a strong commitment to intervene if Councils just can’t get up to date local plans in place. It’s a travesty that more than 10 years after the system was introduced there are still 40% of councils without an up to date local plan for their area. In the education sector this sort of performance would result in special measures and the Council losing control. This same focus should be applied to Councils who show themselves unable to plan for their communities in an effective and timely way.”

Your Comments

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And who broke it in the first place?

By Man on bicycle

Why do we only ever seem to get the private sector builder / consultancy reaction on these matters?

By Bias

Not convinced that putting money in to Council Planning Department’s will solve or alleviate the housing crisis. I remember the service being a little more responsive in the good old days but it had no bearing on the number or quality of homes being built.

For me we are allocating too many large strategic sites and then putting these in the hands of 3 or 4 volume house builders who then churn out their unimaginantive product. They are the Nando’s and Frankie and Bennies of the house building sector, without the choice of a quirky independent. It is such a closed market and Local Planning Authorities must take the rap for this; the planning system has done little for the SMEs. The HCA’s Home Build Fund is a good step but they are trying to revive a part of the sector that has been decimated.

The Local Plan system is a political game which is utterly depressing. Do Local Authorities actually take stock at the end of their plan period to see if they have achieved what the set out to do? Local Members and the well healed NIMBYs dominate to everyone else’s detriment.

By NC

A detailed look suggests there is virtually nothing in the White Paper that will actually force developers to build. All the best Local Plans in the world, long list of permissions and brownfield registers (a complete and utter waste of space) cannot force a single unit to be built. There are no sticks for the development industry at all, the significant one is for councils in that if development fails to materialise (largely a market issue) then Local Plans carry no weight. So spend 3 years on a plan, delivery fails and the plan is dead. No wonder the general public is completely sceptical. Since each developer challenges OAN at every turn using their own methodology (to up targets out of this world so they can get Green Belt released) I can’t see that they will be satisfied with any national methodology unless it ups housing figures into fantasy land…just check out Housing the Powerhouse for example. Government has ducked out of CIL/S106 review, so no solutions offered as to who funds infrastructure. Oh and have people noticed explicit support for starter homes in the Green Belt…so much for Green Belt being protected. No this is not a radical solution to the housing crisis.

By cynical planner

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