Tag Archives: white paper

Housing White Paper Finally Unveiled

Make no mistake, a shift in focus from home ownership to affordable renting is a hugely significant shift in Conservative party policy. Even the title of the Housing White Paper, ‘Fixing Our Broken Housing Market’ is an admission from the government that more needs to be done to tackle the so-called housing crisis. In his statement to parliament, Communities Minister Sajid Javid emphasised that not enough houses have been built for decades. That may be true, but this White Paper perhaps isn’t the bold new approach to planning we were promised.

The emphasis of the White Paper is to speed up the pace of development, introducing a ‘use it or lose it’ approach to ‘landbanking’ developers who do not act quickly to develop the land they own through Completion Notices.

Javid also welcomed new approaches to housebuilding, such as the option to build pre-fabricated houses off-site, an idea which is already being progressed. Perhaps more interestingly he also hinted at a tougher approach to local authorities’ local plans – announcing that plans must start from an honest assessment of their housing needs and ensure that neighbouring local authorities work together to ensure difficult decisions are not ducked. The start of this process is a consultation on a standard methodology for assessing housing need which will then lead to a “housing delivery test”. We have yet to see if this will make a difference.

As with every housing minister over the past 20 years, Javid argued that the planning process must be accelerated. He announced a number of small measures designed to help slim down the process and make it more transparent. A much trailed theme was to tackle onerous planning conditions while at the same time exploring an ominous sounding “new approach to how developers contribute to infrastructure”.

He also announced measures to deter unnecessary refusals at committee  by introducing a fee to the authority if the appeal is successful. Even when permission is granted, it can be too long before local people benefit from new housing therefore Developers will be encouraged to complete new homes as quickly as possible with possible penalties for under delivery.

Nevertheless, the government has ducked the difficult decision on Green Belt in the face of opposition from within its own ranks and the special circumstances clause remains intact. Instead, Javid has proposed the focus should be on increased density within existing settlements and new communities. This was praised by a number of Conservative MPs (mostly representing rural constituencies) during the debate following the announcement of the white paper, however several Labour MPs (broadly urban based) said that it may be necessary to build on parts of the Green Belt in order to meet the housing need in some areas.

Javid used the opportunity to re-announce the £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund designed to support infrastructure improvements to new communities. This will be matched with a range of measures to make it easier for both developers and local authorities to build more houses, however these would come with conditions to hold them to account. For example, although local authorities will be given extra powers to facilitate more housebuilding, they will also be expected to demonstrate how they are using these powers through a new housing delivery test.

Immediate reaction to the white paper was certainly mixed, with some saying the plans do not go far enough to tackle homelessness or increasing rents in the private rented sector. Indeed, the first response to the paper from Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning, John Healey, was ‘Is this it?’. Perhaps the most damning criticism of the package has even come from former Conservative housing minister Grant Shapps who claimed that the plans ‘won’t make much difference’.

A summary of all the policies announced in today’s white paper can be found here.

The White Paper in full can be accessed here.