This has been a great week for the “Get Britain Building Campaign” with the Government setting out a number of initiatives to ensure we build the homes we need for the future.
The Government has clearly stated an intent to take on anti-development interests addressing the country’s housing needs through planning reform in the form of reduced red tape, giving communities more control over where new homes are built and action on councils that have failed to produce a plan for the homes their community needs.
Launching a new Blueprint to increase new homes delivery George Osborne said that “Britain had been incapable of building enough homes”. Key elements of the Government’s plan to Get Britain Building are:
Discounted homes The Government plans to build 200,000 Starter Homes by 2020 for first-time buyers under 40, available to purchase with a 20% discount. The Government has now confirmed that a proportion of starter homes will be required on all ‘reasonable sized housing sites’ and councils will have a duty to include starter homes in their plans.
As previously announced, the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme will also be extended beyond the original March 2016 cut-off to 2020.
Planning reform The Government will take action on councils that fail to produce local plans, intervening to ensure that plans are in place to meet the community’s housing needs.
The government is set to announce plans today to reform the planning system in an attempt to ease the path to new homes delivery.
The plans, which are part of a 90 page document aimed at improving UK productivity, include automatic planning permission on "suitable" brownfield sites in the new government Housing Zones.
Housing Growth Partnership for SME house builders A new Housing Growth Partnership will be created that will invest alongside smaller builders in new developers and establish a network of developers to act as mentors and advisers to small builders looking to grow their businesses.
The £100m equity fund, created through £50m from the Government and £50m from Lloyds Banking Group which was announced in autumn 2014, is expected to make around 50 investments in small builders’ projects, with the aim of providing an additional 2,000 new homes.
Housing Growth Partnership equity investments will range from £500k to £5m and be available to:
SMEs with a track record of delivering residential schemes
Builders completing an average of 10-100 units per year over the last three years
Builders on projects with a gross development value of between £750,000 and £12m.
Self-build and custom-build The Government has a target to double the number of custom-built and self-built homes by 2020. It intends to achieve this by placing a duty on councils to help allocate land to people who want to build their own home. From April 2016, councils will have to hold a register of custom and self-builders and try to meet their requirements for land.
Brownfield funding In addition to the commitment to ensure that ‘planning permission’ is in place on 90% of suitable brownfield sites by 2020 by driving forward with plans to increase the coverage of Local Development Orders, the Exchequer will invest £400m, match-funded by the Mayor of London, to create 30 Housing Zones.
Public sector land The Government has re-confirmed its pledge to bring forward enough public sector land for 150,000 homes over the next five years.
Mike Leonard, spokesperson for the Get Britain Building Campaign said ”This is another milestone in our 7 year old campaign to turnaround the UK economy and build the new high quality homes we need. Building new homes creates jobs, growth and social inclusion.
We are particularly pleased to see a robust approach to planning and more support for local builders who we must get back into the market if we are to substantially increase output and build out the smaller sites which are not attractive to large developers.
It is vital that we match this intent with investment in the manufacturing capacity and skills we need to ensure that we can build the homes we need using local materials and skilled labour.
London and the North East were the only places in the country to see home building registrations fall during the three months from February to April.
According to the latest NHBC figures, UK new homes registrations were increased by 20% to 41,307 compared with the same period last year .
But there was further evidence of cooling in the Capital against a backdrop of stagnant prices. London saw a sharp fall of nearly 2,400 registrations, equating to a 30% drop over the period.
The only other area to suffer a decline was the smaller North East regional, which fell by a similar rate amounting to an actual decline of 450 registration compared to the same period a year before.
Across the UK private sector registrations increased by 24% during this period to 31,083, with the public sector also up by 8% to 10,224.
For the month of April, 12,459 new homes were registered (9,268 private sector; 3,191 public sector), a 4% increase on the 11,985 homes (8,955 private; 3,030 public) registered in the same month last year.
NHBC Chief Executive Mike Quinton said; “The very positive start to the year continues, with the growth in new home registrations unaffected by uncertainty ahead of the General Election, and so 2015 is likely to be another strong year.
“Now that the outcome of the General Election has been decided we look forward to continuing our work with government to ensure that housing remains at the top of the political agenda to help us get back to pre-recession building levels.”
The Government’s ground-breaking Housing Bill, seeking to extend home ownership, forms a key part of the new legislative agenda for the first all-Conservative Queen's Speech since 1996.
The Bill confirmed housing as a priority for the government, and aims to make home ownership an attainable aspiration.
A Cities Devolution Bill will also deliver the Conservative manifesto pledge on transferring economic and fiscal powers to England as part of wider plans to rebalance the national economy.
Mike Leonard, chief executive of the Modern Masonry Alliance, said: “The Queens Speech marks the high-point in our six-year campaign to Get Britain Building.
“The Housing Bill sets out a range of measures to facilitate the building of new homes and the significant extension of home ownership.
“Provided we build with materials made in the UK and create local skilled jobs this action will prove a major stimulus for jobs and growth, which is vital to our economic and social security.
“Devolution will play a key role as we seek to achieve a more balanced economy and build many more homes of all tenures to meet the needs of our growing population.
“Long term vision to drive investment, the increased participation of local builders and custom build as well as a joined up approach to skill building are now of vital importance.
“These are key elements of the Get Britain Building 2020 plan.”
The Housing Bill contains further measures to deliver an extra 200,000 new homes through the new Starter Homes initiative, which will offer a 20% discount to first-time buyers under 40.
The Bill also sets out details of more controversial measures to offer England’s 1.3 million housing association tenants the chance to buy their homes.
The Government has pledged that receipts from selling an owner’s current property will help housing associations to build replacement affordable homes on a one-for-one basis.
To fund this policy the Housing Bill will also require councils to sell their most valuable housing when it falls vacant – with the receipts used to provide new affordable homes in the same area, and the surplus used to fund the Right to Buy for housing association tenants.
Any remaining cash will be invested in a new Brownfield Regeneration Fund to increase the supply of new housing.
A new register of brownfield land will also help fast-track the construction of new homes on previously-used sites near existing communities.
A ‘Right to Build’ in the Housing Bill will also help increase housing supply and diversify the housing sector by giving people the right to be allocated land with planning permission for them to self-build or commission a local builder to build a home.
Self-build delivers a majority of homes in many other countries and can act as a boost to smaller and medium sized builders.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Behind this Queen’s Speech is a clear vision for what our country can be.
“A country of security and opportunity for everyone, at every stage of life.
“To build a country where whoever you are and wherever you live you can have the chance of a good education, a decent job, a home of your own and the peace of mind that comes from being able to raise a family and enjoy a secure retirement.”
Housing starts in England recovered strongly in the first three months of 2015, surging ahead 31% to over 40,000 on the previous quarter.
The latest official Government figures were welcomed by housing minister Brandon Lewis as evidence that housing initiatives were getting the country building again.
The 12 months rolling total to March, showed the industry started on 140,500 homes – 5% higher than during the previous year, but still short of the significant growth needed to address the housing shortage.
Lewis said: “We’re turning around an industry that was devastated and getting the country building again.
“Today’s figures show these efforts are reaping results, with housebuilding starts having more than doubled since 2009, and completions at their highest for nearly six years.”
The figures also showed 125,110 homes completed between April 2014 and March this year – 11% higher than the previous year and their highest annual total since 2009.
During the 12-months there were particularly strong areas of new build starts in parts of London. Areas north of the London green belt in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire also experienced high levels of starts, along with areas in Hampshire and along the south coast.
Some of the greatest increases in starts levels were in districts in Leicestershire, Derbyshire, and parts of Essex. Areas with some of the largest falls in rates of house building included districts in Hertfordshire and Surrey.
The proportions of houses to flats hovered around the two-thirds of total completions mark, just slightly down from around 70% in the previous year.
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