We finally have a government housing strategy in the form of the Housing White Paper – ‘Fixing a Broken Housing Market’. It feels well researched and well informed on housing with graphs,tables and evidence on the housing crisis.
It talks about affordability in general, not just about house prices. It states that the housing crisis is about ‘living in overcrowded, unaffordable accommodation’ and it talks about the ‘property haves and have-nots’.
It also talks about tough decisions.
But let’s not get too carried away at this point. It is still a housing strategy published by a Conservative administration. The solutions contained in the paper aren’t about pumping money into social housing and getting rid of the benefit cap.
The solutions suggested are all focused on increasing supply. The fact that the emphasis is on supply in general and not just increasing home ownership is a welcome relief.
The paper talks about both Housing Associations and Local Authorities as deliverers of new homes. But in its tone, it seems to see the later as more of an enabler.
When it talks of council building, it’s in the context of where the market can’t and within the constraints of tenants having the same rights as existing council tenants.
The paper holds up L&Q as a good practice example of ambition and delivery. You have to give credit the NHF, the tone towards housing associations in this paper is a positive one. Housing Associations are talked about as developers of a range of new homes.
For housing associations the paper promises to:
- Set out, in due course, a rent policy for social housing landlords (housing associations and local authority landlords) for the period beyond 2020. But that 1% rent reduction will remain in place in the period up to 2020
- Create a stand-alone social housing regulator.
- And reinstates that the government is committed to implementing the necessary deregulation to allow HA’s to be classified as private sector bodies.
With those promises, it urges all housing associations to build more homes and expects housing associations to make every effort to improve their efficiency, to release additional resources for house building. The paper explicitly states its support for the new sector scorecard on efficiency.
For local authorities, it also talks about supporting them to build, although the tone is a little more muted:
- That paper states that government wants to make sure that L.A.’s have the tools they need to get homes built where the market isn’t coming forward with enough.
- It’s supportive of local development companies and other innovations to enable councils to build homes. But states that the government wants to see tenants that local authorities place in new affordable council properties are offered equivalent terms to those in council housing, including a right to buy their home.
- The paper offers tailored support packages to councils who want to build on their own land at pace, through a new Accelerated Construction programme.
- It says that the government will work with local authorities to understand all the options for increasing the supply of affordable housing.
- The paper states that there is an interest in bespoke housing deals with authorities in high demand areas, so long as this results in genuinely additional housing being delivered. We can assume this hints to some of the combined authority deals already under discussion, although it is not explicit that this would just for combined authorities.
This paper is about a vision of a great nation of housing building supply, where local authorities and housing associations need to think about how they fit into this vision.
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