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The Housing White Paper

  1. 09 February 2017
  2. By Rosie Rogers

Reallymoving.com takes a look at the Government Housing White Paper to find out more about how it plans to tackle and fix a 'broken market.'

How will the Government fix a ‘broken market’?

It was announced as part of November's Autumn Statement that the Government would be producing a White Paper which would set out its aims on housing and property.
The 104-page document - which includes a foreword from the Prime Minister - was initially expected before the end of 2016 but was only published this week.
Titled 'Fixing our broken housing market', the White Paper was introduced in the Commons by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, who has described the pace of housebuilding as 'sluggish' and called for 'radical, lasting reform' to the current system.
The Government estimates that there is a current requirement of 225,000 to 275,000 new homes each year in order to keep up with population growth and 'years of under-supply'. It says, however, that since the 1970s there have been an average of 160,000 homes built each year - the predominant reason it believes the housing market is 'broken'.
The White Paper has been recognised as representing a Governmental shift towards encouraging renting, despite numerous housebuilding pledges and policies being reiterated.
The document sets out a list of 29 proposals split across four 'steps': 'Planning for the right homes in the right places', 'Building homes faster', 'Diversifying the market' and 'Helping people now'. Steps one and two are predominantly focused on construction, planning and housebuilding, while three and four tackle home ownership and the rental sector.

Below is a summary of some of the key proposals…

  • Allowing local communities to decide where development should go

  • Simplifying plan-making so it's easier for communities to produce plans and therefore easier for developers to follow them

  • Clarifying what land is available for development

  • Maximising contribution from brownfield and surplus public land, while regenerating estates and releasing more small and medium-sized sites

  • Protecting the Green Belt, allowing boundaries to be amended only in exceptional circumstances

  • Giving communities a stronger voice in the design of new housing to drive up quality and character of new developments

  • Making better use of land by encouraging higher densities

  • Changing the way that land supply for housing is assessed so that local and neighbourhood plans are not undermined

  • Improving the speed and quality with which planning cases are handled

  • Targeting the £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund

  • Tackling unnecessary delays caused by planning conditions and exploring a new approach to how developers contribute to infrastructure

  • Taking steps to address skills shortages by growing the construction workforce

  • Holding developers and local authorities to account for the delivery of new homes through transparent data and a housing delivery test

  • Backing small and medium-sized builders to grow

  • Supporting custom-build homes, giving more people choice over the design of their home

  • Bringing in new contractors that can help build homes more quickly

  • Supporting housing associations and local authorities to build more homes

  • Encouraging modern methods of construction in house building

  • Continuing support through purchasing schemes such as Help to Buy and Starter Homes

  • Helping those priced out of the market via the Affordable Home Programme

  • Making renting fairer for tenants

  • Promoting transparency and fairness for the growing number of leaseholders

  • Continuing the crack down on empty homes, and supporting areas most affected by second homes

  • Doing more to prevent homelessness by supporting households at risk before they reach crisis point

They said what?

The majority of industry experts welcomed pledges for longer tenancies and a higher provision of rental accommodation. However, many remain sceptical as to whether the Government's housebuilding pledges are achievable, claiming the White Paper represents more of a wish list than an action plan.
Here is a selection of what some of the housing industry's key players had to say:
David Smith, Policy Director of the Residential Landlords Association: “Unfortunately, the White Paper falls a long way short of the radical changes for renters that we were promised.”
“There may be more build to rent resulting from this in our large towns and cities, but without any plans to support the hundreds of thousands of smaller landlords who make up the bulk of the supply, there will continue to be a major shortage.”
Mark Hayward, Managing Director of the National Association of Estate Agents: “The announcement the Government plans to diversify the market by opening it up to smaller builders who embrace innovative and efficient methods is great and could go some way in helping deliver a vast number of homes quickly.”
“However, it’s vital the Government considers the cost of building modular homes and understands these could remain unaffordable and unsuitable for FTBs.”
Doug Crawford, CEO of MyHomeMove: "While we welcome the Paper’s focus on building the millions of properties needed, there is still a lack of detail of whether these will be priced sensibly for all generations.” 
“We know that would-be downsizers have already told us that they feel unable to move due to a lack of suitable, right-sized, right-priced homes – highlighting the fact that any government measures need to give consideration to all home buyers and movers.”
Peter Williams, Executive Director of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association: “Sajid Javid’s admission that the housing market is broken is refreshing, and the change in tack towards a more balanced view of tenure and housing supply is absolutely necessary and long overdue.”
“That said, it is by no means the first time that government ministers have promised to ensure more homes are built more quickly, and the real challenge for the government is to deliver on the promises set out in the White Paper.”

What next?

Well, now it’s time to see if the Government can make good on all its promises and ideas. The impetus now stands with Sajid Javid and Housing Minister Gavin Barwell, who will be working hard to try and implement change and improve the UK's housing market.
Many of the changes put forward in the document will require changes to the National Planning Policy Framework, which the Government says it will revise and re-release later in the year.
Some of the policies in steps one and two will also require consultation, and there will also be a separate consultation on specific Build to Rent proposals.
As the majority of market commentators have already pointed out, the Government's intentions are good but providing the number of homes needed to successfully bridge the gap between supply and demand remains a huge challenge.
You can read the White Paper in full here.


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