John Healy White Paper – ‘Feeble Beyond Belief’

Guardian

Councils will be ordered to build thousands more homes, with an emphasis on high-rise blocks and city centre developments, as part of the government’s housing strategy.

Too few councils have plans to meet the unprecedented housing demand, the government will say, with 40% of local planning authorities lacking an adequate plan for building new homes to meet the projected growth in household numbers.

New centralised standards will be set for local councils to project their future housing needs, with the expectation that the plans will be reviewed every five years. The DCLG did not respond to requests for information on how cash-strapped councils would finance the projections to meet the new standards.

In the housing white paper to be released on Tuesday, the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, will also cut the legal requirement for developers to start building from three years from when planning permission is granted to just two.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said the plans would tackle “the serious and growing gap between the number of planning permissions granted and the number of new homes completed”. A source in the department added that identifying housing requirements was particularly complex, lacked transparency but councils would be consulted on a new approach.

“Walk down your local high street today and there’s one sight you’re almost certain to see,” Javid will say. “Young people, faces pressed against the estate agent’s window, trying and failing to find a home they can afford. With prices continuing to sky rocket, if we don’t act now, a whole generation could be left behind. We need to do better, and that means tackling the failures at every point in the system.

Households who own their own homes have fallen by 200,000 since 2010, with the number of under-35s owning their own homes falling by 344,000. Almost a million more households are now renting from private landlords since the coalition came to power.

The shadow housing secretary, John Healey, called the plans “feeble beyond belief” and said the government’s record on home-building over the past five years spoke for itself.

“After seven years of failure and 1,000 housing announcements, the housing crisis is getting worse, not better,” he said. “There are 200,000 fewer homeowners, homelessness has doubled, and affordable house-building has slumped to a 24-year low.”

Housing minister Gavin Barwell also promised over the weekend that the white paper would include incentives for older people to sell big family homes and plans for more sheltered housing schemes.

Building more homes, close to city centres and transport hubs is the only way to halt the decline in affordability, Javid will say. Key proposals in the white paper will include:

  • Requiring councils to publish “realistic” projections for future housing demands and review them every five years.
  • A drive for developers to “build higher” where there is a shortage of land, especially in areas close to key public transport hubs
  • Slashing the timescales for housebuilding, including requiring developers to start building within two years, rather than three.
  • Plans to force more transparency on developers, who will be required to show how quickly they will start new developments

Greenbelt protections must remain apart from in exceptional circumstances, Javid will say. Instead, councils will be ordered to prioritise the regeneration of derelict developments in city centres.

“That means high-quality housing for families in town centres, breathing new life back into our high streets, turning abandoned shopping centres into new communities and increasing density of housing around transport hubs to build homes that people want to live in,” the plan will say.

New measures will also be considered to protect buyers from so-called “leasehold abuse” where punishing ground rate and service charges increase during the lease period, traded with leaseholders left powerless to influence the costs.

Renters who cannot afford to save for a deposit must be given a wider choice, the white paper will say. The government plans to relax restrictions on funding for the affordable homes programme, originally designed for shared ownership building, so developers can build homes for rentals, including rent to buy schemes.

Planning rules will be overhauled so councils can plan to build more long-term homes for rent and encouraging more stable, longer-term tenancies to be offered by landlords.

The white paper also outlines plans to break the dominance of some developers, in a marketplace where 60% of new homes are built by just 10 companies.

The £3bn home building fund, previously announced by Javid at the Conservative party conference last year, will provide loans to small developers, custom builders and offsite construction with the aim of diversifying the market, DCLG said.

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2 thoughts on “John Healy White Paper – ‘Feeble Beyond Belief’

  1. After 7 years – many of the under-35 cohort of homeowners have moved into the over 35 category – this is the main reason for the reduction along with fewer new entrants.

    What is harder to account for is the drop in the overall number – houses/flats formerly owned being demolished or rented out. Who is dropping out of home ownership? Where are they going – to rented flats or care homes?

    The major change in the proportion of all housing that is owner-occupied is due to the rapid growth in the amount of rented housing.

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