We are in the midst of a major housing crisis: there are simply not enough homes to be built and not everyone can afford to buy. The government has promised wholesale upheaval … if reform turns out to be piecemeal, it will be a serious letdown.
The Government’s recent announcement of an additional £5 billion investment in the form of loans to private sector organisations and for building homes on surplus public sector land is welcome.
Councils are well placed to bridge the gap between housing need and future building levels. We should now expect a big shift towards local authorities taking more of the lead in creating affordable homes.
Watch out for announcements on:
More council borrowing – update Housing Revenue Account (‘HRA’) rules that would allow councils to extend borrowing for new homes across 171 local authorities areas in England and Wales. The current debt cap allows them to borrow £3 billion to build around 15,000 properties over the next five years – which is clearly not enough to meet demand
Changes in Right to Buy rules – housing associations in particular will be looking for any changes to the RTB regulations and the cut in social housing rents (that started in April 2016 aimed at cutting welfare bills) that they say have eroded housing stock for needy people
Developer levies – changes to community infrastructure levy and S106 legislation that has made the cost of some housing developments unaffordable. Any further attempts to harness ‘planning gain’ will face stiff opposition from developers
Devolution – greater powers given to combined authorities to oversee all aspects of planning, housing and infrastructure across devolved regions
Planning – new rules on freeing up brownfield and unused land, and legislation to force land owners to start construction work with agreed time limits after they receive planning permission to build, so tackling the issue of speculators sitting on land for profit