Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that the government is “rewriting the rules on planning” to help developers and local authorities build more properties – restoring the dream of homeownership – but added that there is nothing wrong with renting.
In her speech on 5 March at a national planning conference in London, Mrs May said that in much of the country housing is “unaffordable”, resulting in “a vicious circle from which most people can only escape with help from the Bank of Mum and Dad”. “If you’re not lucky enough to have such support, the door to homeownership is all too often locked and barred,” she said.
In an overhaul of the planning rules, the government wants councils and developers to build new homes more quickly at prices that are affordable for first-time buyers, NHS staff, teachers, firefighters and other key workers. It also plans to build more homes for rent on family-friendly, three-year tenancies and to encourage developers to build more homes specifically for rent.
Mrs May re-affirmed her commitment to protecting green belt land but said that better use could be made of brownfield sites, increasing density by building upwards rather than outwards. The new rules will make it easier to build more homes in areas with high demand, supporting, for example, the conversion of empty spaces over shops and upward extensions.
“I’d rather see an ugly, disused power station demolished and replaced with attractive housing than a wood or open field concreted over – even if the former is in the Green Belt and the latter is not,” she added.
Making renting fairer
But on being a tenant, Mrs May said: “While ownership is a wonderful thing, there is nothing inherently wrong with renting your home – whether you’re renting by choice or necessity, you’re not any less of a person for doing so.”
She was keen to stress the government’s commitment to making renting fairer by banning letting agents from charging most tenants any fees; having longer tenancies so families are “not uprooted every month”; and imposing new powers for crack down on rogue landlords.
She said: “With no regulation in property management, the door has been open to cowboy agents – with tenants, leaseholders, freeholders and honest agents all paying the price. That’s why we’re working with reputable property managers and their clients to clean up and regulate the sector.”
Reminder to treat renters as ‘human beings’
Commenting on the speech, Alex Eid, chief executive of London rental platform Homie, says: “Theresa May’s speech was a strong reminder to the property industry to treat renters as ‘human beings’ and was long overdue. As it stands, the market is not built to provide renters with the best options for them in a simple and clear manner, with 60% of renters spending over a day researching the area they want to live in, before even beginning to look at properties. The rise of online search portals has left renters overwhelmed with options and no clear guidance on locations or properties that would suit them.”
Dominic Martin, business development director at Atlas Residential, adds: “From a Build to Rent perspective, one of the biggest barriers is a lack of awareness by local authorities in many secondary and tertiary UK towns and cities about what this new product really is and how it can benefit their local renting community. Therefore, an education of officers (both planning and housing) but also members, especially those on planning committees, is critical and requires a fresh drive from both those within the sector and wider government.”