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Housing White Paper, London, United Kingdom

Thursday 09 Feb 2017

UK searches for concrete solutions to its housing crisis

Housing White Paper by WAN Editorial in London, United Kingdom
Sheppard Robson-designed houses at the Newhall development, Harlow, UK - Simon Kennedy  
Housing White Paper by WAN Editorial in London, United Kingdom
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The UK Government’s long-awaited White Paper on the country’s housing crisis has been published 

The UK is in the grip of a severe housing crisis. A lack of supply means first time buyers are unable to get a foot on the property ladder and as a consequence many are forced into over-priced rental properties.

In response to the crisis the UK Government promised to provide 1m new homes by 2020, however it is still a long way off achieveing this target. A long-anticipated housing white paper, entitled ‘fixing our broken housing market’ was also published this week. Delayed twice, the UK Government’s announcement, and accompanying 104 page document, has received a mixed response. 

The Government’s new housing policies have been criticised by many prominent groups who say they have failed to live up to promises of radical action. Indeed, earlier briefings to some journalists promised a major policy shift which failed to materialise in the White Paper. 

However, the white paper did contain tweaks to the planning system intended to help councils meet housing demand, such as a requirement for councils to keep an up-to-date local plan.

The white paper reiterated the grave problems facing the housing market, about which UK residents are all too familiar but many felt there was a distinct absence of any detailed implementation program.

Commenting on the Government’s Housing White Paper, Naomi Heaton, CEO of London Central Portfolio said; “Having lobbied the Government on the inadequate supply of rental property, which became a scapegoat under George Osborne’s tenure, LCP welcomed the sentiment in today’s paper to assist families within the Private Rented Sector as well as those wishing to buy their own homes.  At last the Government has woken up to the fact that not everyone aspires to homeownership, with an increasingly mobile workforce and a generational change in lifestyle.”

“For the first time, the Government announced a relaxing of restrictions in their Affordable Homes Programme to include affordable rental property. They also, once again, propose to consult on longer tenancies on new build rental homes.”

Very little detail was included in the Housing White Paper on how these policies will be executed or enforced. The announcements lack detail on how to tackle the growing lack of PRS supply with a 1.8m shortfall anticipated by 2025, according to RICS. More information on the ban on letting agent’s fees was also absent.

Also commenting on the White Paper Chris Darling from Darling Associates said: “On the whole the White Paper is good news. It’s good to see that the housing crisis has moved up the political agenda and that politicians are finally addressing supply issues.”

However as supply increases it may be all too easy to makes mistakes when it comes to quality as was the case with the high-rise buildings of the 60s and 70s. Chris commented, “Lessons have been learnt from the 60s in terms of quality and today’s projects are much better with issues like condensation on longer a problem.” Chris also advocates a focus on the Private Rented Sector (PRS) to increase supply, “There needs to be a cultural shift towards renting for the PRS to succeed with land zoning also playing a critical role.”

Housing target

Naomi Heaton continued: “For developers, with an announcement of an increase up to 40% in planning fees, the commercial nature of the industry is once again being overlooked, as is their crucial role in providing affordable housing. This is particularly worrying at a time when anecdotal evidence suggests a rapid slowing of building starts as buyer demand falls for more expensive homes due to the high levels of graduated Stamp Duty and the introduction of the Additional Rate. Whilst further investment into planning departments is welcome, developers also require support if they are to help deliver on Government building objectives.

“With only 163,940 housing completions in England in 2015-16, the Government is a long way off the target of providing 1m new homes by 2020, promised by David Cameron. Not only do we have a housing crisis to meet right now, there is projected to be an additional 1.8m new households created by the end of this Parliament. Currently, the Government is not even standing still.

“On the whole, the much-hyped Housing White paper appears to do very little to ‘fix our broken housing market’.”

Planning for Housing Conference

Set against this backdrop Planning for Housing (North) is the annual event for key players within the public and private sectors to gather and address some of the most pertinent planning challenges related to housing in the Northern region and beyond.   

Through insightful panel discussions, practical breakout sessions and extended speaker Q&As, the conference will explore how the planning system can play a role in delivering enough housing in the North, and in meeting the growing demand for new homes in areas where we need them most.

Make the most of this chance to debate and share best practice with your peers next month and receive a 10% discount by quoting WAN10 when booking.

Also, coming soon, look out for WAN’s podcast with Chris Darling from Darling Associates on the UK Housing Crisis and the Private Rented Sector.

Nick Myall

News Editor

WAN Editorial

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