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White Paper overview – will it fix a broken market?

buying or renting, the fact is that housing is increasingly unaffordable – particularly for ordinary working class people who are struggling to get by.” These are the Prime Minister’s words in the introduction to the Housing White Paper, setting out changes of direction in future Government housing policy. While house building still forms the


centrepiece of the 104-page document, it is clear the Cabinet has dropped its “ownership at all costs” doctrine. While it wants to ramp up the speed of construction, increasing the numbers of houses being built and their density, the Government is at last putting an emphasis on rental properties and affordability. Unveiling the White Paper, Communities

Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, said “The housing market in this country is

broken and the solution means building many more houses in the places that people want to live.” Central to this, the White Paper hopes to tackle the high cost of renting, with institutional investors like pension funds being encouraged to get actively involved in developing and managing private rental properties through build to rent. Much of the document is about speeding up

the building of homes – so long as they are not on the Green Belt – with a focus on reforming the planning system. Campaigners would like to speed up implementation of the changes, but getting Parliamentary approval could take up most of the next two years.


Changes in the private rented sector have disappointed many campaigners, as the introduction of three-year ‘family friendly’ tenancies appears to be restricted to new ‘build to rent’ schemes only. These will not apply retrospectively to tenants in buy-to-lets although talks are to be held with the National Housing Federation, British Property Foundation and LGA about extending their use to market lets. Ironically, the Government is proceeding with work to end lifetime tenancies in council housing. Similarly, the loss of a private sector tenancy will probably remain the most common cause of homelessness. Local authorities are being encouraged to

resume council house building, but their borrowing powers will still be constrained and tenants’ Right to Buy is being preserved. This needs more work as roughly six council properties were sold through the RTB last year for every new council house that was built. Housing associations will still have to reduce

rents by one per cent a year up until 2020, but thereafter they are likely to have more freedoms, provided greater operating efficiencies and more new homes are built. No form of rent controls in the private sector is being

considered, other than increasing supply. Meanwhile welfare reforms continue to bite,

retaliatory evictions will continue in the private rented sector and property conditions remain variable. The Government has reiterated its

commitment to tackle rogue landlords and encouraging local councils to impose better conditions through use of HMO licensing. The banning of letting agents fees is to be consulted on, but will be subject to fresh legislation. The White Paper itself is divided into four

chapters and the main points in each are summarised below:

The right homes in the right places

• Ensuring all parts of the country have an up- to-date plan which the whole community has been able to contribute to. This should be reviewed every five years.

• Ensuring that plans are based on an accurate assessment of housing need that sees local authorities working with their neighbours to make difficult decisions.

• Local authorities should identify all the land available for housing and who owns it.

• Maximising use of brownfield and publicly owned land while continuing to protect the green belt.

• Making better use of land by building to higher densities and reviewing

space standards.

• Consulting on housing need assessment methods to ensure a consistent approach that takes account of the needs of different groups.

Building homes faster

• Introducing a housing delivery test for local authorities to ensure they are delivering the housing needed.

• Addressing capacity issues in planning departments by ensuring councils have sufficient funding to recruit properly trained planners.

• Ensuring the right infrastructure is in place and secures timely connections to utilities to allow building to start promptly.

• Addressing skills shortages in the construction workforce.

Diversifying the market

• Encouraging more small and medium builders, custom builders and non-traditional construction methods, such as offsite construction.

• Encouraging more institutional investors into build to rent schemes, including affordable private rent where homes will be available for rent at a minimum of 20 per cent below market levels. Eligibility will be based on local incomes and house prices.

• Making more ‘family-friendly’ tenancies of | HMM March 2017 | 5

ur broken housing market is one of the greatest barriers to progress in Britain today. Whether

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