‘Fixing our broken housing market’

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has released its white paper Fixing our broken housing market, reiterating the need to build between 225,000 and 275,000 homes a year, and setting out Government’s strategy and commitment to this.

The Housing White Paper discusses the role of the local authorities in delivering higher housing volumes, utilising brown field sites across the country; potential changes in the way planning permissions are granted; new and innovative accelerated construction processes; the need for supply chain improvements, and also addresses quality and sustainability.

As expected, this has led to much discussion within the building industry. London Central Portfolio, BSRIA and UK-GBC share their views.

Naomi Heaton, CEO of London Central Portfolio, comments: “The Government has published their long-anticipated housing white paper, entitled ‘fixing our broken housing market’. Delayed twice, Sajid Javid’s lacklustre announcement, and accompanying 104 page document, was an underwhelming response. Reiterating the grave problems facing the housing market, about which we are all too familiar, there was a distinct absence of any detailed implementation program.

“Having lobbied the Government on the inadequate supply of rental property, which became a scapegoat under George Osborne’s tenure, LCP welcomed the sentiment in the paper to assist families within the Private Rented Sector as well as those wishing to buy their own homes. At last the Government has woken up to the fact that not everyone aspires to homeownership, with an increasingly mobile workforce and a generational change in lifestyle.

“For the first time, the Government announced a relaxing of restrictions in their Affordable Homes Programme to include affordable rental property. They also, once again, propose to consult on longer tenancies on new build rental homes.

“However, very little detail was included as to how these policies will be executed or enforced. These announcements simply do not go far enough to tackle the growing lack of PRS supply with a 1.8m shortfall anticipated by 2025, according to RICS. More information on the ban on letting agent’s fees was also absent, which now is to be subject to consultation.

“For developers, with an announcement of an increase up to 40% in planning fees, the commercial nature of the industry is once again being overlooked, as is their crucial role in providing affordable housing. This is particularly worrying at a time when anecdotal evidence suggests a rapid slowing of building starts as buyer demand falls for more expensive homes due to the high levels of graduated Stamp Duty and the introduction of the Additional Rate. Whilst further investment into planning departments is welcome, developers also require support if they are to help deliver on Government building objectives.

“With only 163,940 housing completions in England in 2015-16, the Government is a long way off the target of providing 1m new homes by 2020, promised by David Cameron. Not only do we have a housing crisis to meet right now, there is projected to be an additional 1.8m new households created by the end of this Parliament. Currently, the Government is not even standing still.

“On the whole, the much-hyped Housing White paper appears to do very little to ‘fix our broken housing market.”

The UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) has also responded to the publication of the Government’s Housing White Paper, putting focus on the importance of delivering high quality homes.

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive at the UK Green Building Council said: “The Government is rightly committed to a major housebuilding drive, closing the gap between demand and supply, and putting new homes within reach of those currently being left behind. We welcome the Government’s focus on the creative use of brownfield land, new support for planning authorities, and efforts to encourage the better use of existing homes.

“Whilst delivering a significant quantity of homes is crucial, so too is delivering high quality homes. If we do not aim for zero carbon standards now, we will likely need to go back and retrofit these buildings in just ten years’ time in order to meet our carbon targets.

“The good news is that putting quality, good design and cutting edge construction methods at the heart of the housebuilding process is actually conducive to achieving the scale of housebuilding we need to see. A focus on urban areas – where people want to live and work – requires intelligent design and the engagement of local people to deliver high-quality, high-density developments that work for new owners and existing communities alike.”

BSRIA also emphasise the importance of quality aswell as quantity.

Tassos Kougionis, Principal Consultant – Residential, at BSRIA’s Sustainable Construction Group, comments: “BSRIA welcomes this timely and very important ‘radical blueprint for change’. This heralds a new era for housing, with fresh opportunities for members and industry alike.

“But we must not forget that building homes is a matter of quality as well as quantity. Our current focus on delivering volume makes quality more important than ever. Government, industry and stakeholders all need to work together to guarantee that communities’ needs and wellbeing are at the very centre of our decisions. Indeed, that these new homes will be well thought through and designed accordingly.

“We must ensure that in order to tackle this very challenging housing crisis we are not building the costly slums or soulless estates of tomorrow.

“With regard to innovation, modern methods of construction, ‘offsite’ manufacturing and zero waste approaches – I believe they signify an exciting new era for the industry which shall be explored more as it may offer the potential we are seeking to delivering these high targets.

“What is also very important is to see how SME housebuilders can be supported, and increase in numbers, as a more diverse housing delivery model can enhance the industry’s ability to deliver the required numbers while creating new jobs and opportunities that will help in increasing our workforce.

“As ever, it is crucial that industry has access to a workforce with strong engineering and construction skills.

“BSRIA has highlighted skills and labour shortages, on a number of occasions in the past. We commit to assisting in delivering the workforce, skills and knowledge required. We will continue to engage with Central Government, local authorities and industrial partners offering new informative material, new training opportunities and our professional and scientific expertise and services where required to support the delivery of a high quality, healthy, safe and striving future built environment.”