Gavin Barwell

A guide to the housing white paper

The government will be giving more powers to local authorities to speed up housebuilding as it revealed its eagerly anticipated housing white paper.

The white paper’s reforms will attempt to reduce the obstacles to housebuilding and help local authorities, developers and SME builders produce more homes.

Speaking at the launch of the white paper, communities secretary Sajid Javid said the current housing system wasn’t working and was one of the greatest barriers to progress in the UK today. 

“The housing market in this country is broken and the solution means building many more houses in the places that people want to live.

“We are setting out ambitious proposals to help fix the housing market so that more ordinary, working people from across the country can have the security of a decent place to live. 

“The only way to halt the decline in affordability and help more people on to the housing ladder is to build more homes.

"Let’s get Britain building.”

Key points of the housing white paper

The white paper revealed that the government expects councils and developers to use land more efficiently by avoiding building homes at low density and building higher where there is a shortage of land and in locations well-served by public transport.

To help this, the government will make it easier for local authorities to issue completion notices, shortening the timescales required for developers to start building to two years, instead of three, once permission is granted.

A greater need for transparency was also announced as it wants developers to provide regular information on their pace of delivery of new housing, so councils can consider this when planning their local need.

Councils, meanwhile. will need to produce a realistic housing plan and review it at least every five years. 

The government also aims to support small independent builders as it revealed 60% of new homes were built by just 10 companies. 

The £3bn homebuilding fund is expected to help build more than 25,000 new houses by providing loans for SME developers.

The white paper is encouraging housebuilding in key areas 

“We are setting out lasting reforms that will get more of the right homes built in the right places, right now,” added Gavin Barwell, housing minister.

“We owe it to our children and our grandchildren to fix the broken housing market problems and help them find a home of their own.”

Further measures to fix the broken housing market

The government said it would introduce the Lifetime Isa which will support younger adults to save flexibly for the long term, giving them a 25% bonus on up to £4,000 savings a year which can be used to purchase a first home.

Starter homes will be targeted at first-time buyers as the government intends to make clear through the National Planning Policy Framework that starter homes, like shared ownership homes, should be available to those that need them most. 

The government plans to tackle the rising cost of renting by amending planning rules so councils can proactively plan for more long-term build to rent homes and a consultation has been launched to allow developers to offer more affordable rent alongside other forms of affordable housing.

Priority building on brownfield site

Only in exceptional circumstances may councils alter green-belt boundaries, according to the white paper. 

The government’s plans on strengthening the national planning policy by creating a ‘de facto’ presumption in favour of housing on suitable brownfield land and to drive up density levels in high-demand areas. 

Brownfield sites will be the priority area for new homes

There are also plans to radically increase brownfield development and to bring life back to abandoned sites in town centres.

Local authorities will also be given powers and incentives to tackle empty homes and through the New Homes Bonus they can earn the same financial reward for bringing an empty home back into use as building a new one. 

You can read the housing white paper in full on the government’s website

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