Sector responds to Government's £10bn housebuilding pledge
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Development, Housing, Local Government
Sector responds to Government's £10bn housebuilding pledge
Bodies in the housing sector have responded to the Government's plans to shake up housebuilding with a £10bn package and a raft of other measures.
The Government is aiming at getting 70,000 new homes built with the package, as well as extending the 'FirstBuy' offer and bringing empty homes back into use, and relaxing current planning rules.
However, some have been critical of the Government's plans. London Assembly Green Party Member, Darren Johnson, said: “These ideas won’t scratch the surface of our housing crisis, they are far too small to stop rents rising faster than wages or make house prices remotely affordable for young people.
“The Government has found money to build 15,000 affordable homes in the next few years across the UK to let developers off the hook. But we need at least this many built every year in London alone. These plans are a drop in the ocean that could even see 5,000 fewer affordable homes being built each year, meaning more overcrowding and high benefit bills as people are left renting privately.”
Labour London Assembly Member, Nick Gavron, said: “Londoners are suffering as the government blames everybody else for their economic mess. The economy is not flat-lining because of the planning system or Section 106 agreements for much needed affordable housing, it is flat-lining because of the lack of confidence and demand, caused by the government’s failing economic plan.
“In London alone, there are 93,000 houses with planning permission which haven’t been started or been stalled by developers. These are not being built because banks aren't lending to developers, and because house builders want to limit supply to push up prices and increase their profits. The culprits are the big house-builders who 'land-bank' – sitting on land without building - and the big banks who 'don’t bank' - not providing mortgages to people.”
Hammersmith and Fulham Council, whilst welcoming the new proposals, has claimed that even more could be done to help people into homeownership if a "few simple steps were taken".
Cllr Andrew Johnson, H&F Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “This council fully supports the Government’s ambitions to create more homeownership opportunities for first time buyers and we warmly welcome today’s announcement.
“However, we believe that the Government could go further by giving top-performing local authorities greater freedoms in how they manage their existing housing assets so they can retain the full receipts from property disposals and invest them into local affordable housing priorities.
“We need to build a ladder of housing opportunity to enable not only more first-time buyers to own their home, but expand homeownership across the council housing sector through shared ownership opportunities for council tenants in their existing homes.
“All we’re looking for is the freedom to manage our assets to create more of the housing of the tenure the local area needs, not any increase in borrowing.
“If our proposals were adopted nationally, not only would a generation of prospective home owners reap the benefits, but the construction industry would also be given the shot-in-the-arm that it is so in need of.”
Meanwhile, Bromford Housing Group has praised the plans. CEO Mick Kent said: “It’s fantastic to see that the Government has understood the massive role that overall housing supply can play in boosting the economy."
However, he warned that details will be important, adding: “It’s even more welcome that the Government recognise how crucial it is to provide more affordable housing for those who can’t buy, in addition to rented homes for people who want that flexibility. Whether this package of measures will deliver what’s needed will depend on the detail. How will the planning relaxations operate in practice and how will the subsidy be allocated to replace affordable homes lost through amended s106 agreements?”
Habinteg Housing Association - which provides affordable and accessible home and support services - has asked that the Government considers future-proofing new homes for disabled use. In a statement, it said: “We know from the amount of demand we have for Habinteg’s wheelchair accessible properties just how hard it is for many disabled people to find suitable affordable accommodation.
"As the UK’s population ages we know that accessibility and flexibility in housing design will become an ever more important issue and could make all the difference to the long term impact of this welcome injection of effort and resources.
"Future-proofing the investment is critical if we are to get best value for money. We would urge all planning authorities involved to apply the Lifetime Homes Standard to all new development with 10% of properties designed to full wheelchair accessible standards."
Leslie Morphy, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said: “With house building at record lows it is encouraging that in today’s announcements the government has recognised the vital need to build more homes and the role this can play stimulating economic growth.
“However we would be deeply concerned with any measure that waters down the requirement for councils and developers to deliver new social and genuinely affordable housing to rent. With 1.8 million households on council waiting lists and homelessness rising across the country – official figures out today highlight another 9% increase – wages stagnant and rents rising we desperately need a step-change in the delivery of new affordable housing.”
Meanwhile, The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has urged the Government to ensure that the new plans do not "create a legacy of social polarisation or undermine local democratic accountability in the planning system".
Kate Henderson, TCPA chief executive, said: “The TCPA supports the Government’s ambitions to kick-start the economy and support housing delivery, however it must not be at the expense of those least able to afford decent homes. The Prime Minister has described “costly affordable housing” as a barrier to housing delivery, but it is well understood that social and affordable homes are essential to creating mixed, vibrant and resilient communities.
"The detail of how the planning inspectorate administers changes to affordable housing requirements of Section 106 agreements will be very important in ensuring we strike the right balance between bringing housing supply forward and maintaining delivery of new affordable homes. We cannot risk creating a legacy of social division. Once these places are built the long term consequences of this division cannot be easily undone.”
Tony Stacey, chair of the PlaceShapers Group of housing associations, said: "We welcome the Government's announcement on this package to boost housebuilding.
"PlaceShapers - and the housing association sector more widely - have a huge role to play to help to house Britain. The market is not working currently and PlaceShapers' long-term commitment to our local neighbourhoods means we will not turn our back on the need to build more – however, difficult this might be. This needs creative solutions, and PlaceShapers excel at this.
"The focus of the government's statement was on the private rented sector, an area in which many of our members are already working intensively with local authorities and coming up with new approaches to market renting.
"We are pleased the requirement for affordable housing through Section 106 agreements has not been wiped out; however, we are very concerned that giving house builders a get out will mean many developers will seek to renegotiate existing schemes without the planned affordable housing which our members and our local authority partners have worked on - often over many years. Affordable housing remains a desperate need in most areas we work."