At long last the White Paper has been revealed. Is it the answer to solving the so called ‘broken housing market’? Unlikely in our view, the various initiatives and promises are welcome but they really do not amount to much more than further tinkering.
The Government has committed to consulting on the principle of a new standardised approach to calculating housing demand to better reflect current and future housing pressures. There is a re-confirmation of the NPPF objective that every Borough and District will need to prepare a realistic plan and to review it at least every 5 years. Where necessary, the Government will intervene to ensure that these are in place.
The White Paper sets out that Councils will be ‘expected to use land more efficiently’ by building at higher densities especially where there is a shortage of land in locations with good transport links. To support this the White Paper seeks to simplify the plan making process. Councils will need to prepare a Statement of Common Ground setting out how they will work together with neighbouring authorities to meet sub-regional housing requirements. Initiatives will also be introduced to make it easier for communities to produce plans and for developers to also be involved.
New policies will be announced to assist councils to build more homes. Also, the White Paper has made a commitment to make it easier for councils to issue completion notices, greatly reducing the timescales required by developers to build out planning permission and to reduce the minimum period for a permission from 3 to 2 years. Planning rules may also be changed to allow local area planning policies to be established to encourage long term Build to Rent schemes.
The White Paper is also looking to make it easier for Councils to secure ‘greater transparency and information from developers’ in conjunction with new homes delivery. It is suggested such information should form part of the evidence base regarding local plan preparation. This is anticipated to reduce the anomaly between approved planning permissions and new homes completed.
Once again the White Paper re-confirms the Government’s commitment to protecting Green Belts and that their boundaries should only be amended in exceptional circumstances. Councils will need to show that all other options for meeting housing development requirements have been explored and identified.
Councils will also be able to increase planning application fees for all types of application to these submitted by householders and developers by up to 20%.
The White Paper places a great emphasis on ‘ensuring more longer-term tenancies are available in private rented schemes’. The White Paper confirms this change in tenancy law will apply to new build homes and not those in the existing private sector accommodation.
The White Paper simply re-confirms a commitment to build more affordable rental homes as previously suggested in 2016 Autumn Statement.
The HCA will be renamed ‘Homes England’. This is to support its revised role following its re-organisation.
Encouraging Smaller Developers
The White Paper re-confirms the initiative aimed to assist more small to medium sized builders to enter the house building market by utilising the £3bn Home Building Fund.
The White Paper introduces the Lifetime ISA aimed at giving young tenants flexibility when saving for a deposit for the longer term. There is also an intention to alter Starter Homes with the White Paper stating they will be like Shared Ownership, only available to those in most need with an income of less than £80k p.a. outside London and £90k p.a. in London. There will no longer be a requirement to build 20% Starter Homes on a site. Starter Homes will be part of the 10% minimum affordable housing needed for a site. Starter Homes can be allowed though on rural exception sites, if this meets local need.
An ongoing issue and the White Paper says Councils have the authority to tackle empty homes. There will be flexibility to impose a council tax premium of up to 50% on empty properties and those substantially unfurnished for more than two years.
The White Paper confirms that consultation will take place on a range of measures to ‘tackle all unfair and unreasonable abuses of leasehold’.
In our view, the initiatives and especially those relating to planning are yet again just a series of modest measures. If we are to greatly increase housing delivery, then recognition is required that additional greenfield sites may be needed for housing development given the limited amount of available brown field sites. Once again the Government has dodged the simmering question as to whether we will need to see a greater proportion of new housing built in green belt locations. Also, the White Paper steers well clear of addressing the balance between developers needing planning permission and those in local communities who wish to prevent growth choosing rather to maintain the status quo. More houses vs England’s green and pleasant land. Not an issue we would like to be tasked with solving!
For more information please contact:
John Foddy, Managing Director