Remember when the answer was 42 because no one asked the right question? The Housing White Paper is, in essence, a consultation document engineered to raise questions. Unfortunately, if the right questions aren’t asked, the answers simply won’t add up. Many fear this is the case with the Housing White Paper.
In its 104 pages, it the Housing White Paper echoes the same debates that the housing industry has been having for decades. Without any workable solutions, it is only promising that we will continue to have the same arguments.
The Housing White Paper outlines a vision for a modern, sleek system where planning permissions don’t fester in a filing cabinet for years on end.
Placing a greater onus on local authorities, the document plans to beef up planning departments by hiking application fees. It also puts pressure on housebuilders to start building more quickly once planning permission is granted, ignoring the hurdles they face in doing so and the risks to sustainability. Predictably, this has received a mixed reaction.
Squabbles over the Green Belt allegedly held up its publication, and so it came as little surprise that the Green Belt will not be loosened or fastened. While rural campaigners have welcomed its protection, it remains a contentious for developers who insist it must be reclassified.
Diversifying the market
The Housing White Paper vowed to help small independent builders enter the market, however its ambitions for SMEs to deliver only 25,000 out of the 900,000 that need to be built over the next three years have been criticised as unambitious. The hike in planning fees has also raised concerns among small builders, who fear it will limit the access to sites.
We were teased of talk about removing barriers for the 8 million or so people who wish to downsize. Thus, it came as a bit of a shock to discover that Stamp Duty for later life buyers would remain in place. Local planning authorities will be expected to have clear policies for addressing the housing requirements of groups with particular needs, including older and disabled people. That’s about it.
After conjuring outdated images of heartbroken young people with their noses pressed against estate agent windows, the Housing White Paper proposes that home ownership isn’t the be-all and end-all after all. While the industry has generally welcomed the support for Build to Rent, concerns have been raised that it has given up on home ownership. Indeed, the Housing White Paper makes grim reading for first time buyers.
READ MORE IN OUR ARTICLE ‘WHAT THE HOUSING WHITE PAPER MEANS FOR PRS INVESTORS’