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What does the levelling up agenda mean for housebuilders?

The government’s flagship levelling up whitepaper launch was somewhat overshadowed by other events at Westminster, but its importance should not be underestimated.

The levelling up goal was supposed to define Boris Johnson’s premiership before the onset of coronavirus, but its launch should set the political agenda for the rest of this decade. 

Although considered by many to be light on detail, lacks fresh funding and, in a lot of instances, includes reheated policies previously announced, the ethos behind the initiative should be broadly welcomed by the housebuilding sector.  

Its overarching objective is to create a fairer spread of wealth and opportunity across the country, outside of London, and thus boost regional economies. The government unveiled 12 ‘levelling up missions’ to help left behind areas catch up.

This brings new opportunities for housebuilders, particularly in locations targeted for regeneration. 

The creation of ‘innovation accelerator’ centres in the likes of Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and Glasgow should create new demand for housing in these regions. 

Key measures of interest to housebuilders and property developers include:

  • creating new responsibilities for Homes England to oversee the regeneration of 20 towns and cities in a ‘King’s Cross style’, starting off with Wolverhampton and Sheffield
  • scrapping the 80/20 rule, where 80% of government funding for housing supply was directed towards ‘maximum affordability areas’. That meant that funding was weighted towards London and the South East. The North and Midlands will now receive £120m to deliver homes on brownfield land.
  • launching the £1.5bn levelling up home building fund, to provide loans to support SME builders
  • introducing a decent homes standard for the private rented sector 

What we didn’t have is any clearer guidance on the forthcoming planning reforms, which could arguably do more to unlock housebuilding potential than the levelling up agenda. Some in the sector have also expressed disappointment that the government hasn’t moved quicker to address more urgent issues, such as labour supply or the cost and scarcity of materials. 

The levelling up plan will be hotly debated by the property sector for months and years to come, particularly as further details emerge. While it’s not perfect and unable to please all, it is a step in the right direction to create a more balanced economy.

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