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industry news 5 QUEEN’S SPEECH Henry Gregg

Housing sector responds to the Queen’s Speech


ollowing the new government’s pre- election promises many were waiting with great interest to hear how the housing sec-

tor would feature in the Queen’s Speech. They were not disappointed and welcomed

the housing measures announced, including the proposed Housing Bill, which will provided the framework to extend the Starter Home initiative to deliver 200,000 homes to first-time buyers aged below 40 at 20 per cent below market rate. It will also create a statutory register for

brownfield land so that the government can work towards its target of securing Local Development Orders on 90 per cent of brownfield land suitable for development by 2020. Speaking just after the state opening of

Parliament the Home Builders Federation exec- utive chairman, Stewart Baseley said: “The government’s focus on boosting housing supply in this new parliament is very welcome. Last week saw positive housebuilding figures with activity at its highest since 2007 but we’re a long

way off building the number of homes the coun- try needs so more action is required. “The planning process still takes too long to

navigate which is detrimental to the prospects of small and medium-sized builders in particular. We need to reduce barriers to entry, cut out unnecessary bureaucracy and get more builders building the homes of tomorrow.” Assistant Director of Campaigns and

Communications at the National Housing Federation, Henry Gregg also supported the Housing Bill along with the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, which will see powers transferred to cities with elected metro mayors, saying: “We are pleased to see a Housing Bill front and centre of the Queen’s Speech and to see the government committed to getting more homes built. “Plans to identify and free up brownfield land,

the Right to Build and Starter Homes are all moves in the right direction and will contribute to resolving the huge housing shortage we have.

But we need to ensure these new homes are built where people need them and available at a price people can afford. However, the proposed Right to Buy extension and welfare reforms put these plans at risk. “The cities devolution bill has the potential to

bring an end to the housing crisis in all its differ- ent forms, grow local economies and regenerate communities. Housing associations stand ready to engage with local leaders to help create com- munities where people want to live and work.” Also commenting on the devolution of powers

to metro mayors Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) chief executive, Trudi Elliott said: “The RTPI welcomes more powers devolved to cities as outlined in the Queen’s Speech, including the widening of the functions of combined authorities. But it is also vital that areas and towns between cities are not left behind and can benefit from planning that looks beyond political boundaries. “The RTPI urges future elected city mayors

and local authorities to cooperate and plan more strategically on issues such as housing, renewable energy, transport, health and education by enter- ing into partnerships. We hope the opportunities presented through the new City and Local Government Devolution Bill will lead to more cross-border cooperation.”

said:”Extending right to buy to housing associa- tions is not going to tackle the housing crisis – in fact it could make things worse for people on lower incomes who are already struggling to access a decent home at a price they can afford. It would have a huge impact both on housing asso- ciations and on local authorities, as councils would have to sell off their most valuable homes to fund replacements. “Our concern is that in practice it would result

in the loss of vital social and affordable homes. The government says each home sold would be replaced on a one-for-one basis – but we know this is not happening under the current scheme. Our research has shown that most local authori- ties only expect to be able to replace half or fewer of the homes they sell under right to buy. And government figures show that between April 2012 and last September councils started or acquired 2,298 homes using right to buy receipts – just one for every 11 sold. “The government says that replacements for

both housing association and council homes sold under the extended scheme would be built in the

CIH also responds to the Queen’s Speech R

esponding to the Queen’s Speech Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) deputy chief executive. Gavin Smart

same area, but this will be heavily dependent on land availability and will therefore be extremely challenging in some inner city and also rural areas. “The best way of helping people on lower

incomes into home ownership is by increasing the supply of affordable housing. CIH is ready to work with the government on the solutions that could make a real difference, for example invest- ing in shared ownership and supporting local authorities on land and asset management to deliver more homes.” Gavin also explained: “The right to build,

which will require local authorities to identify and release land with planning permission, is a sensible step which could increase the contribu- tion that self-build makes to housing supply. It should also provide a boost for small to medium sized builders which historically have played a critical role in delivering new homes.” However, he was concerned that: “Freezing

working age benefits for two years fails to reflect the reality of the housing crisis. We are not build- ing enough homes, which means the cost of housing and therefore the housing benefit bill is going up. “Millions of people have no choice but to rely

on housing benefit to secure a roof over their head. That includes an increasing number of people in work – the number of people in work who still have to claim housing benefit has more than doubled from around 445,000 to just over a million in the last five years. “Cutting housing benefit for under 21s fails to

take into account the reality of many young peo- ple’s lives. It could have a serious impact on vulnerable young people who have left home, including those who have been rough sleeping and may be forced to return to it. It could also mean that young people would be unwilling to take risks such as moving for work because there would be no safety net for them. “Our research on the impact of the benefit cap

in Haringey showed that people affected by the cap face serious barriers to finding work, includ- ing a lack of job seeking skills and affordable childcare. So we think that lowering the benefit cap would be very dangerous unless ministers commit to increasing support for people looking to get back into work and funding for childcare for those people affected. “Ultimately, if the government really wants to

tackle the housing benefit bill, it needs to commit to building more genuinely affordable homes.”

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