A Summary of the Key Points
The much awaited Housing White Paper was released yesterday, I had a quick skim of the main issues raised as was pleasantly surprised. The paper admits that action needs to be taken and rate of supply needs to be seriously amped up to meet growing demands. The paper states that ‘we need from 225,000 to 275,000 or more homes per year to keep up with population growth and start to tackle years of under-supply’.
There has been a notable shift in policy on housing since the departure of David Cameron and the Teresa May. The former championed Help-to-Buy ISAs, whilst the latter has admitted Britain is no longer a society of home owners – a desire famously set out by Thatcher in the 1980s. In line with this, the housing white paper has declared Britain’s housing market ‘broken’. Quite some admission, particularly given that it is the very title. Surprisingly though, given the PM’s admission, Cameron’s help to buy schemes will not be left by the wayside however there will be continued focus on the rental market too, with ambitions of speeding up the supply of rental homes over the coming years.
The paper acknowledged the significance of the rental market in the provision of housing. Recognising that more than four million households rent their home from a private landlord, nearly twice as many as 10 years ago. It also highlighted how an average couple who are tenants ‘send roughly half their salary’ to their landlord each month, making it ‘nigh on impossible’ for them to save for a deposit to buy their own property. Plans to ban estate agents from charging fees was also given a mention in terms of increasing affordability of renting.
So, what other plans are there to fix this broken housing market?
Well, they divide their mammoth task into four key areas; the right homes in the right places, building homes faster, diversifying the market and helping people now. Lets take a closer look into what they are trying to achieve.
The Right Homes for the Right Places
The paper has declared the right houses for the right places. They would like local authorities to take the responsibility to creating properly devised plans by 2018 which will allow the government to create a better picture of who needs what where. These plans must be sympathetic to the needs of each county meaning that areas with higher numbers of disabled or elderly people will need to have housing stock to match. Once their plans have been accepted in 2018, each local authority will be responsible for sticking to a yearly quota of new houses.
There are also plans also to simplify the means of finding out what land is available to be built on.
And not surprisingly, given the comeback of ex-lah property, there is to be more effort made in regenerating council estates.
Building Homes Faster
There are several planned initiatives that have been set out to increase the speed that homes are built. Most significantly the housing department want to boost the capacity of local authorities and increase their capacity to deliver. This is to include addressing the shortage in the construction workforce. There are initiatives planned to increase the transparency of data so that contractors are not held up unnecessarily. This is to include making sure that protected species are clearly licensed and registered with this information being easily accessible. Lastly, the commission has determined that they would like to find new ways to ensure that local authorities are keeping up with their housing targets.
Diversifying the Market
The white paper revealed that 60% of Britain’s housing stock is supplied by the same 10 large companies. Aims are to ‘diversify the market’ intend to encourage small and medium sized builders to grow using the Home Building Fund – a £3bn fund set aside to help smaller contractors and developers. (see: www.gov.uk/homebuildingfund).
There is to be more support directed towards custom-build homes, including allowing greater access to land and finances. This ties into another initiative set out under this heading which is to boost innovation and increase competition in the housing market by encouraging modern methods of construction.
Lastly, housing associations and local authorities are to be supported to build more homes.
Helping People Now
The housing white paper has declared that the Help to Buy and Starter Home initiatives launched by Cameron will receive continued support. Importantly, they have recognised the need to help people who have been priced out of the home ownership market. This was slightly unexpected given that it was only a week ago that May claimed Britain should see the benefits of renting over owning. It seemed almost, as if she was warning people that little more would be done to help people onto the ladder. However they have stated they will help people save for a deposit, buy with a smaller deposit or buy at 20% below the market price. Reassuring news for generation rent, I hope.
The white paper fails to take into consideration the ageing populace and the provision of suitable property for people with reduced mobility. The baby boomers are today, on average, in their early seventies. Meaning that we have a further two to three decades of high numbers of elderly. I would have thought this aspect would have been more sufficiently addressed.