Papering over the cracks or solid new foundations?
The nation’s housing supply problems are well known and it is currently forecast that around 250,000 new homes are needed in England each year just to keep pace with current demand. Housebuilding levels are currently well below 200,000 units per annum, writes Richard Pigott.
At Planning Design we are doing our bit – we have achieved planning consent for over 1,300 new homes in the last 5 years alone. Schemes we have been successful on range from large scale regeneration projects such as Ashbourne Airfield, where 367 houses and 8 hectares of employment land will be delivered, to barn conversions, infill plots and bespoke one-off homes. Geographically, these houses have been spread far and wide across the width and breadth of the country including the Northwest, West Midlands, Southeast and of course the East Midlands.
Clearly, not all of these schemes have yet been built out and there are a whole host of reasons why the bulldozers do not always move straight in. These can include landowner disputes; unexpected legal covenants; lack of financial viability; and the simple inability to find a willing buyer. We have clients who have experienced all of these issues over the last few years.
It is encouraging to see the government recognise, in its recent housing white paper ‘Fixing our broken housing market’, that it cannot rely wholly on the volume housebuilders to deliver the number and breadth of housing that the country needs. It sets out a subtle shift away from the ethod of ‘home ownership for all’ to focus on a wider range of housing tenures including build to rent and proposes measures to reduce the obstacles to house building and help local authorities, developers and SME builders build the homes Britain needs. On this last issue, the Government launched the £3 billion Home Building Fund in October, 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 and custom-builders to deliver up to 25,000 homes by 2020; and a further £2 billion of long-term loan funding for infrastructure and large sites, unlocking up to 200,000 homes.
However, reaction to the White Paper has been mixed, with many left feeling distinctly underwhelmed by its contents. "Government must go further to tackle the housing crisis," was the IPPR's responce from the left. "A missed opportunity" replied the Adam Smith Institute from the right.There is a feeling that the seriousness of the problem requires more radical solutions. For instance there is no suggestion of a review of the Green Belt and its purposes. This feels like a missed opportunity and the government should have been bolder on this issue. Perhaps Sajid Javed, the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, was advised to steer away from this political hot potato? There is also no national spatial plan to balance economic growth more evenly across the country and address the growing north-south divide. And there is no decision on what the government intends to do to address the tension between section 106 obligations and community infrastructure levy (CIL), and how that impacts on the delivery of the affordable housing numbers the government is looking for. The outcome of the CIL review will not be announced until the Autumn Budget 2017.
So it’s a mixed report really on the much anticipated Housing White Paper. It feels like a step in the right direction on a number of fronts but the suspicion remains that it will not truly ‘fix our broken housing market.’
If you wish to discuss the implications of the Housing White Paper further please get in touch
Richard Pigott is a Chartered Town Planner and Director at Planning & Design Practice.
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