Plans for building more homes and improving conditions for Britain’s renters and leaseholders have been announced by the government in its White Paper, Fixing Our Broken Housing Market.
The measures aim to make it easier for small and medium-sized developers to build homes, by providing loans to them and the opportunity for offsite construction – where sections of houses are produced in factories and installed on site fairly quickly and workers don’t have to live near the construction site. Currently, just 10 companies build around 60% of new homes. The government also plans to make it easier for individuals to custom-build their own homes.
Presenting the government’s new plans in Parliament today, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We have to build more of the right houses in the right places and we have to start right now.”
The onus will fall on local planning authorities to find a standardised way to calculate housing demand, which will they will have to review at least every five years.
The Paper points out that currently 40% of local planning authorities do not have an up-to-date plan to meet the projected growth in households in their area.
The new housing policy aims to encourage developers to build houses more quickly by speeding up the planning process. However, Mr Javid stressed that green belt land will continue to be protected and that communities will have a say in house-building plans in their areas.
The government is also proposing to make the private rented sector more family-friendly by taking steps to promote longer tenancy agreements.
In addition it plans to offer a fairer deal to Britain’s leaseholders, reviewing the unfair practice whereby ground rents can increase significantly during the leasehold period.
‘The devil will be in the doing’
Russell Quirk, chief executive of eMoov, is disappointed by the proposals, saying: “Although this paper will be cautiously welcomed, much of what Mr Javid announced today was nothing but recycle rhetoric and statistics from previous announcements, and as always, the devil will be in the doing. Rather than make any real steps towards a solution, today’s changes seem to only trim the fat from a system that is fundamentally broken.
“The stubborn stance on green belt is disappointing, there are swathes of land that are classed as green belt that should not be labelled as such, which could go a long way in addressing the shortage of land needed to build.
“We must be more grown up about building on green belt and we are only talking about 1% of it, but it would seem the government is more concerned about going to war with middle-England than it is with addressing the housing crisis.
“The reduction in time between planning permission and the start of building is such a small aspect of the problem that it will barely make a dent to the overall outcome,” he adds.
Paula Higgins, chief executive of HomeOwners Alliance, adds: “A new wave of housebuilding will require ever greater scrutiny from government, and stronger regulation to tackle malpractice. The latest wave of new homes, for example, have caught buyers in a leasehold trap – leaving them with the choice of shelling out thousands for their freehold or living in homes which are unsaleable. The entire system is broken and in desperate need of reform if we are to create a stable housing system that truly works for everyone.”