The Conservative Party have today delivered their long-awaited Housing Green Paper ‘Extending Opportunities”. The Paper pledges to:
• Abolish the regional planning system and regional housing targets.
• Incentivise new house-building by matching local authorities’ council tax take for each new house built for six years – with special incentives for affordable housing;
• Allow the creation of new bodies – Local Housing Trusts – with freedom to develop homes for local people, as long as there is strong community backing;
• Promote the use of habitable empty properties to reduce local authority waiting lists;
• Broaden access to the government’s databases of surplus public sector land and buildings, to enable members of the public to identify vacant government land that should be available for house-building;
• Guarantee that councillors have the freedom to campaign and represent their constituents on planning issues.
• Ensure that the views of local residents are taken into account in the planning process, by making pre-application consultations between developers and local people mandatory for major applications;
• Enable councils to revise their current local plans to protect Green Belt land;
• Prevent the building of eco-towns against local wishes;
• Reverse the classification of gardens as brownfield land and allow councils to prevent over-development of neighbourhoods.
• Pilot ‘Right to Move’, a scheme which allows good social tenants to demand that their social landlord sell their current property and use the proceeds, minus transaction costs, to buy (and thereby bring into the social rented sector) another property of their choice – anywhere in England;
• Re-introduce a comprehensive national mobility scheme for those tenants who wish to move but to stay in the social sector;
• Offer good social tenants a 10% equity share in their social rented property, which can be cashed in when they leave the social rented sector;
• Strengthen shared ownership options by encouraging flexible equity stakes, working to get greater private sector involvement in the sector, and ensuring that shared ownership buyers are not treated as sub-prime borrowers;
• Ensure that tenants moving within the social sector keep their Right to Buy discounts;
• Instigate a formal review of waiting lists policy to make the system fair and transparent; and Implement a range of policies to address the problems of homelessness.
LOW CARBON HOUSING
• Support the ‘Merton Rule’ which gives local authorities the powers to set renewable and low carbon energy targets for new development.
• Scrap Home Information Packs (HIPs), and promote Energy Performance Certificates to genuinely help people improve the environmental standing of their property;
• Propose an entitlement to have £6,500 worth of energy efficiency improvements done to their home – the costs being recovered automatically through the household energy bill over a period up to 25 years;
• Permit employers to count carbon reductions they achieve in employees’ homes towards their own emissions reduction targets;
• Ensure that every gas and electricity bill contains information which allows each household to compare their energy consumption with average households of a comparable size.
Proposals for regional planning would enable councils to revise, in whole or in part, their existing Local Development Frameworks to take account of the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies. Councils will be allowed to prevent over-development of neighbourhoods.
The Green Paper pledges to match the additional council tax raised by each council for each new house built for each of the six years after that house is built. Councils will get an automatic, six-year, 100 per cent increase in the amount of revenue derived from each new house built in their areas. The policy would be paid for by abolishing the Housing and Planning Delivery Grant and by top-slicing a proportion of annual increases in formula grant for councils.
The Conservatives would consult on how to build on and augment the council tax incentive scheme in order to increase the incentive for councils to deliver affordable houses.
The Paper proposes to look at the existing levies on development: Section 106 agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy. The Conservatives propose to examine how these levies can be “simplified and localised” and will also consider how to ensure that the cumulative burden of these levies does not undermine the economic viability of regeneration and development.
The Paper pledges to make “elected, accountable local authorities aided by the active pursuit of public participation” at the heart of the planning process by legislating to allow councillors to campaign on development without breaking rules on pre-determination.
Local authorities and NHS Trusts should be included in the e-PIMS database which lists available surplus public sector land fro development. The Paper notes that although this will impose a “small administrative burden on the authorities, requiring such proper records will increase the likelihood of public bodies disposing of unnecessary brownfield land, freeing up additional resources in the long-term.”
The Paper pledges to bring empty existing homes brought back into use under new supply in performance indicators.
Under a pilot scheme in run in five local authority areas, the Conservatives plan to negotiate an arrangement with local authorities and housing associations under which all tenants who have a record of five years good behaviour will be given the right to demand that their landlord sell their current property and use the proceeds, minus transaction costs, to buy another property of their choice – anywhere in England. The Paper also proposes to offer social tenants with a record of five years good tenant behaviour a 10 per cent equity share in their social rented property, which can be cashed in when they leave the social rented sector.