While the analysis of many of the problems facing us as a society regarding housing, housebuilding, land supply and affordability is very sound from the government, Housing Justice has serious concerns that the initial proposals do not go far enough to address these concerns; the more you read in to the detail the more you realise there is not that much of substance, especially to help those who could most do with assistance. It also feels as though some good ideas were potentially there in first drafts, and have been removed because of the political impact they could have internally for the Conservative party.

Indeed, many of the problems are ones we, and others in the industry more widely, have highlighted before, and it is encouraging that the government recognises and quite clearly spells out that the market is broken. We don’t build enough homes, we don’t build those homes fast enough, and there is not enough protection for a growing number of people in the private rented sector. The term ‘affordable’ is also broken, and there will be a consultation on this as outlined in the annex to the White Paper.

However, this was a landmark opportunity for a government in power, in such a position of authority in the polls, to have made some big changes to the scale of housebuilding outside of the main cities in this country. Sadly, it looks as though the large scale changes needed will not happen.

There are particular areas of concern:

  • Green Belt – this was trailed before the release of the White Paper by the Secretary of State as an area of great change, that the idea of building on Green Belt land would be looked at more seriously. Nothing substantive has changed and instead we see more focus on building in cities, increasing density of accommodation, building up, and filling in small spaces and brownfield sites
  • Size of property – on top of increasing density of accommodation there is a strong suggestion that the government will look to redraw guidance on how large properties need to be, through a re-evaluation of the Nationally Described Space Standard
  • Local Authorities still have no mechanism by which to build the homes they have themselves indicated they want and need to build. The LGA wants the restrictions to funding for housebuilding removed and while this does not happen then a significant section of potential houses for those most in need and those ‘just about managing’ will not be realised. See below a visual representation from ResPublica’s November report on housing.

 

  • Length of tenancy is to be increased to 3 years in some instances to help provide some stability for families. This should be significantly strengthened and lengthened with a 7-year tenancy for young families as children go through school whether primary or secondary if this desire for stability is to be accomplished

It would have been good to see more information on how the government will support Community Land Trusts than just one paragraph – this is a strong model for how to protect genuine affordability. The support through funding is to be encouraged but it is clear that this must be led by communities own plans.