The Government’s long awaited White Paper on Housing, “Fixing the Broken Housing Market”, was issued on 7 February. Predictably observers are split on whether the proposals will help to make good the housing shortfall particularly as several qualify as ‘old news’ having been announced at various points over the past 12 months or so. Much of the section relating to encouraging housing associations to build more falls into the old – or pending - news category:
- A rent policy will be formulated in consultation with social housing landlords to give greater income certainty (for the purposes of borrowing) – but only in ‘due course’. The 1% rent reduction will remain in place until 2020.
- Social housing regulation will be put on more independent footing. This is old news.
- A reiteration that housing associations belong in the private sector. Ditto.
- Housing associations will be urged to redouble their efforts to exploit all development opportunities and to make every effort to increase Value for Money. This is also old news; the HCA is already on the VfM case.
For those Housing Associations which are actively looking for development opportunities, the White Paper does have some good news:
- Local authorities must have an up to date plan to be reviewed every five years – and the government will intervene if they fail to do so. A new housing delivery test will determine whether local authorities are executing their responsibilities.
- More funding to help local authorities speed up the planning process.
- Developers will be discouraged from land banking and local authorities can issue completion notices if building is not started within two years of permission being granted.
- Building for rent rather than sale will be actively encouraged, making renting fairer for tenants.
- Continued investment in the Affordable Homes Programme including help for the most vulnerable in society.
- The definition of Affordable Housing is likely to be widened to include affordable private rented housing and to introduce an income cap for starter homes.
- The government would also make it clear that a minimum of 10% of all homes on a site of more than 10 units would be affordable home ownership products.
The White Paper is a credible start to the government’s promise to deliver the housing the nation needs. But the challenges, such as improving the planning process and countering local objections to more building, should not be underestimated. We intend to provide regular commentary on and updates on progress through to changes in the law that will ultimately be required to put the Government’s proposals into effect.