On Tuesday the Government released its long awaited White Paper on Housing. The document titled “Fixing our broken housing market” acknowledged that there is a problem with the provision and affordability of housing in the UK and sets out a number of steps that the Government feel must be taken to improve people’s housing options.
The main focus of the White Paper is the requirement to build more houses but houses that people want to live in and in areas where they want to live.
The identification and release of land for new build is therefore key and once identified planning permission and house building needs to happen as quickly as possible. The existing planning system therefore needs an overhaul and more resources allocated to the planning departments of local authorities, land banking by big development companies also needs to be addressed.
Diversification of the housing market is supported through the encouragement of smaller builders including self and custom build as well as increasing the supply of housing by housing associates and local authorities.
Whilst there does not appear to be any options for the increase in the supply of council homes through the removal or increase of the HRA debt cap, the innovations shown by some local authorities to date are acknowledged, and it would appear that the Government is willing to work with the local government sector to make market sale and rent housing easier to deliver. One word of caution still exists though in that the White Paper makes it clear that tenants in new affordable properties provided by councils should still be given the right to buy.
For many local councils looking to set up wholly owned companies to provide more homes, the White Paper may provide comfort in one hand but cause concerns in the other as it is clear that right to buy is still a major policy objective for the Government.
We have highlighted this issue in a number of previous Insights and client updates and still feel that local authority tenants, irrespective of the type of tenancy they are provided with (either market or affordable) will have the right to buy due to the requirements of the 1985 Housing Act. This clear statement from the Government may now make some wholly owned company business plans look less realistic if affordable homes are included in the numbers.
As we have pointed out on a number of occasions Arlingclose has a solution to the issue of right to buy through its housing delivery vehicle as well as a number of other innovations to help local authorities in the delivery of housing so please contact us to discuss in more detail.