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Housing white paper: government changes focus from starter homes to 'wider range of affordable housing'

The housing white paper is set to propose a consultation to allow developers to offer more affordable rent, encourage more long-term build to rent and ensure starter homes are available to people with households incomes under £80,000 outside of London.

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The long-awaited white paper – with the tagline ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ - will claim to set out ‘new measures to ensure the housing market works for everyone, including people on lower incomes, renters, disabled and older people’.

Starter homes and affordable housing will be re-prioritised, with government saying starter homes will be targeted at first time buyers who would otherwise be priced out of the market. 

It said: ‘We intend to make clear through the NPPF that starter homes like shared ownership homes, should be available to households that need them most, with an income of less than £80,000 (£90,000 for London). 

‘The result of these changes means we will change our focus from starter homes to a wider range of affordable housing.’ 

As trailed at the weekend, the government plans to introduce measures to tackle the high cost of renting ‘at the heart of its plan to fix the broken housing market’. That also involves ensuring longer-term tenancies are available in private rented schemes to provide more stability to families that are renting. 

Government is now working closely with the British Property Federation and National Housing Federation ‘to ensure that these longer-tenancies become widely available’.

The government is restating its commitment to affordable housing, with its £1.4bn for our Affordable Homes Programme, taking total investment in this programme to over £7bn to build around 225,000 affordable homes in this Parliament. It said it has opened up the programme, relaxing restrictions on funding so providers can build a range of homes including for affordable rent, along with Rent to Buy homes alongside shared ownership.

However, there is no mention of social rent.

Launching the white paper later today (7 February 2017), Communities Secretary Sajid Javid is expected to say that the current system is not working and is one of the greatest barriers to progress in Britain today.

He will highlight research that shows the average house now costs eight times more than average earnings – an all-time record.

Mr Javid is set to say: ‘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.

‘Today we are setting out 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 only way to halt the decline in afford ability and help more people onto the housing ladder is to build more homes. Let’s get Britain building.’

They will also consult on a range of measures to tackle all unfair and unreasonable abuses of leasehold.

Other elements of the white paper:

  • The paper will try to address the growing gap between the number of planning permissions granted and homes completed. Local authorities will be given ‘the tools’ to speed up house building as well as powers to make sure developers build homes on time. The government said it will ‘make it easier’ for councils to issue completion notices, shortening the timescales to require developers to start building within two years, rather than three years, when planning permission is granted. They will also require ‘greater transparency and information’ from developers on their pace of delivery of new housing, so councils can consider this when planning their local need. 
  • Ministers will reaffirm the government’s commitment to the greenbelt, saying that ‘only in exceptional circumstances may councils alter greenbelt boundaries after consulting local people and submitting the revised Local Plan for examination’.
  • A plan for ‘urban regeneration’ includes strengthening national planning policy to create a ‘de facto’ presumption in favour of housing on suitable brownfield land, and to drive up density levels in high demand areas while ensuring that developments are ‘well-designed and respect the character of the local area’. 
  • The government said it is taking action to ‘radically increase brownfield development and to bring life back to abandoned sites’.
  • There will be a consultation on a new, standardised way of calculating housing demand, calling on every local area will need to produce a ‘realistic plan’ and review it at least five years. They say that 40 per cent of Local Planning Authorities do not have an up to date plan that meets the projected growth in households in their area.
  • It will ‘continue to support local authorities’ to encourage efficient use of existing stock, by making ‘best use’ of homes that are long-term empty and providing the New Homes Bonus, and giving the same financial reward for bringing an empty home back into use as building a new one.
  • There will also be action to help small independent builders enter the market given including through the £3bn Home Building Fund. 

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