Laying the Foundations: A Housing Strategy for England

There is much in the media this morning about the £400m fund for development schemes David Cameron and Nick Clegg have announced today.

Grant Shapps, the housing minister, has written in ConHome that he wants to challenge the “lazy consensus” around housing. Mr Shapps has also made the following Written Ministerial Statement (see below)  outlining the strategy behind the Governments plans.

When we’ve had a good look through the document, LGiU will issue a press release – to be added to the mailing list, please email rob.dale@lgiu.org.uk.

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I am today announcing the publication of Laying the Foundations: A Housing Strategy for England. This Strategy sets out the Government’s plans to support social mobility and get the housing market – and in particular new housebuilding – moving again.

This is vital for our economic growth – but more importantly, it is essential to the hopes and plans of young people, families and older households across the country. We know we won’t achieve this by attempting to control the market from Whitehall. The system of setting top down targets for housing, vast amounts of planning guidance and excessive regulation contributed to the lowest level of housebuilding since the 1920s. Housebuilding in 2010-11 was 29 per cent higher compared to 2008-09, and compared to 2009-10, it was 17 per cent higher (103,750 starts in 2010-11; 88,690 in 2009-10, and 80,550 in 2008-09).

The Strategy sets out the immediate action we are taking to get the housing market moving again.

  • We are launching a new build indemnity scheme to provide support to potential home-buyers;
  • We are reinvigorating the Right to Buy – to support social tenants who aspire to own their own home, by raising the discounts to make it attractive to tenants across England. We are matching this with a commitment that for every additional home bought under Right to Buy, a new affordable home will be built;
  • We are getting building moving again with a new £400 million ‘Get Britain Building’ investment fund;
  • We have established a new £500 million Growing Places Fund which will support infrastructure for housing and economic growth;
  • We are freeing up formerly used public sector land with capacity to deliver up to 100,000 new homes – with Build Now, Pay Later deals on the table to support builders who are struggling to get finance upfront; and,
  • We are consulting on a proposal to allow reconsideration of those planning obligations agreed prior to April 2010 where development is stalled.  Some planning obligations negotiated at the height of the economy boom now make the site economically unfeasible – resulting in no development, no regeneration and no community benefits at all.

We are also taking action to lay the foundations for a more responsive, effective and stable housing market in the future.

  • We will be providing more support for local areas that want to deliver larger scale new development to meet the needs of their growing communities – with a programme of support for locally planned large scale development;
  • We are putting in place strong, new incentives for housing growth through the New Homes Bonus, Community Infrastructure Levy and the proposals for local business rates retention;
  • We have consulted on simplifying planning policy through the draft  National Planning Policy Framework;
  • We are supporting a self-build revolution through a Custom Build Homes programme to support and encourage more individuals and communities to build their own homes – including making available up to £30 million of new funding to support provision of short-term project finance on a repayable basis; and,
  • We are giving communities new powers to deliver the development they want through Community Right to Build.

We are also supporting choice and quality for tenants by

  • supporting growth and investment in private rented housing, as the key to increasing choice, access and standards in the sector, whilst also working with local authorities to tackle the worst properties;
  • creating more opportunities for council tenants to have their say – with tenants with an Arms Length Management Organisation landlord given new opportunities to influence how their homes are managed;
  • introducing a radical programme of reform of social housing through the Localism Act, changing the way people access social housing, the types of tenancies which are provided and the way the homelessness duty is discharged, though not the duty itself which continues to provide amongst the best homelessness support in the world;
  • doing more to tackle fraud and tenancy abuse – we will give local authorities the tools to identify and recover properties that are being used unlawfully; to charge more reasonable market orientated rents from people earning very high salaries; and to prevent people who own a suitable home from seeking social housing too; and
  • considering how we can encourage more affordable housing – supporting greater innovation and competition between social landlords – including encouraging new private entrants into the social housing market and considering innovative new approaches to funding affordable housing in the medium term.

We are also making better use of existing stock – bringing more empty homes and buildings back into use. The Housing Strategy sets out our Strategy for tackling empty homes, including £100 million funding to bring empty homes back into use as affordable housing and changes to council tax to help tackle empty homes and bring them back into productive use and an additional £50 million of funding to tackle some of the worst concentrations of empty homes.

We remain committed to providing appropriate support, protections and opportunities to struggling households and to making the best use of social housing to provide stable homes for those who need them most. We have prioritised protection for the vulnerable in last year’s Spending Review and have established a Ministerial Working Group to tackle the complex causes of homelessness. We are also setting out a new deal for older people’s housing, with a better offer to support older people to live independently for longer.

This strategy is not just about building more homes. We know that the quality, sustainability and design of housing, along with sufficient funding to support growing communities is just as important as how many new homes are built and that getting this right is crucial if communities are going to support new homes.

I am also issuing today a consultation on the powers which will deliver a devolved system for financing council housing from next April. Self-financing will deliver a long term, securely funded, future for council housing and give councils the freedom they need to be innovative in meeting local needs.

Copies of the Strategy and consultation on legal determinations to implement self-financing will be placed in the Library of the House and published on-line at www.communities.gov.uk.