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Government aims to fix ‘broken’ housing market

Aiming to build more homes across England, the Government has issued a housing White Paper.


Released today (February 7), the White Paper includes:

  • measures to reduce the obstacles to house building and help local authorities, developers and SME builders 
  • measures to improve affordability and protections for renters and home purchasers
  • ambitious proposals to help fix the housing market so that more ordinary working people from across the country can have the security of a decent place to live

The paper looks at a number of issues which Communities Secretary Sajid Javid says form barriers to progress in Britain today. These include how housing demand is calculated, how fast houses can be built, ways to increase the number of companies building houses, ways to help people to afford the purchase homes and ways to increase the amount of affordable houses available.

Crucially, the White Paper, for the first time, sets a Tory Government’s stall out to help the rental market instead of focusing exclusively on homeownership.

In order to help plan housing demand, every local area will need to produce a realistic plan and review it at least every 5 years. The White Paper states that, currently, 40% of local planning authorities do not have an up to date plan that meets the projected growth in households in their area.

The government will make it easier for councils to issue completion notices, shortening the timescales to require developers to start building within two years, not three, when planning permission is granted.

Fixing this, the Government believes, will help make sure enough land is released for new homes to be built in the parts of the country where people want to live and work and ensure developments take heed of local people’s wishes, while continuing with maximum protections for the green belt.

Councils and developers will also be expected to use land more efficiently by avoiding building homes at low density and building higher where there is a shortage of land and in locations well served by public transport such as train stations.

The 2016 to 2021 Affordable Homes Programme has been opened up, relaxing restrictions on funding so providers can build a range of homes including for affordable rent. This includes Rent to Buy homes alongside shared ownership. Rent to Buy offers a discounted rent set flexibly at levels to make it locally affordable so renters can still save for a deposit to purchase their home.

The Government will also take action to increase brownfield development encouraging high quality housing for families in town centres and increasing density of housing around transport hubs.

It will also will also continue to support local authorities to encourage efficient use of our existing stock, making best use of homes that are long-term empty. Through the New Homes Bonus, local authorities earn the same financial reward for bringing an empty home back into use as building a new one.

Javid said: “Walk down your local high street today and there’s one sight you’re almost certain to see. Young people, faces pressed against the estate agent’s window, trying and failing to find a home they can afford. With prices continuing to sky rocket, if we don’t act now, a whole generation could be left behind. We need to do better, and that means tackling the failures at every point in the system.

“The housing market in this country is broken and the solution means building many more houses in the places that people want to live.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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