UK: Latest Announcements Affecting UK House Builders

Last Updated: 12 December 2018
Article by Akin Akinbode, Gurbinder Grewal and Kirsti Olson

The latest housing figures reveal that 220,000 new homes were delivered in the years 2017 to 2018. (See the Communities Secretary's announcement here.)

While there is still some way to go to meet the government goal of 300,000 new homes per year by the mid 2020s, it is clear from the sheer volume of recent announcements that many are working hard to help the construction industry reach that goal.

Read on for the highlights.

Homes England five-year strategic plan

  • In October 2018, Homes England, the government's recently-rebranded "housing accelerator" (with a new strapline "Making Homes Happen"), published its five-year strategic plan (from financial year 2018-2019 to 2022-2023) to improve the affordability of housing. With its more commercial approach to acquiring, preparing, managing and developing land in areas of high demand, the plan explains how Homes England will use its powers and government investment to "drive forward key programmes and play a major role in making the housing market work for everyone". (See Homes England's press release.)

Construction defects in new builds– issues and solutions

  • As well as the need to increase the number of new builds, there are increasing concerns about the quality of some of the new homes being produced. The All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment has published a new report, New-build housing: construction defects - issues and solutions (England) (following on from its 2016 report, More Homes, Fewer Complaints). The paper "considers the existing building control regime and customers' means of redress when faced with defects in newly built housing". Measures recommended in the 2016 report to support the rights of home owners include the establishment of a new Homes Ombudsman to "champion homebuyers, protect their interests and hold developers to account".

Planning issues

  • The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) is seeking views on the proposed "Changes to planning practice and guidance including the standard method for assessing local housing need". With a focus on building more homes, the consultation also proposes some clarifications to the national planning policy on housing land supply and the definition of deliverable appropriate assessment.
  • Sir Oliver Letwin has issued a final, independent report into build-out rates on how to close the significant gap between housing completions and the amount of land allocated or permissioned. He calls for a new set of planning rules for sites with more than 1,500 homes, in areas of high housing demand, to speed up property building. The new rules "would require developers to build a wider range of properties with different designs and tenures, to speed up build out rates". (See the press release and the link below to our Planning TV site "Delivery Challenge – Speeding up build out". )
  • The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in October 2018 that the housing revenue account cap controlling local authority borrowing for house-building was to be abolished in England from 29 October 2018. This is to enable councils to increase building to around 10,000 homes a year. The Communities Secretary has since written to stock-owning local authorities about the next steps. (You can read the letter here.)
  • The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) is consulting on measures to support the high street by simplifying and streamlining the planning system. The MHCLG aims "to provide greater planning certainty to support the high street and ensure that we can deliver new homes in the right places, and without delay". (Click here to read the consultation.)
  • The government has established a new Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission the aim of which is to "tackle the challenge of poor quality design and build of homes and places, across the country and help ensure as we build for the future, we do so with popular consent". You can find the terms of reference for the commission here.
  • The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has published:

Latest commentaries on planning law

Housing supply statistics on net additional dwellings

  • Housing supply statistics on net additional dwellings in England up to 2017-2018 have been published by MHCLG. The report provides "estimates of changes in the size of the dwelling stock in England due to new house building completions, conversions (for example a house into flats), changes of use (for example a shop into a house), demolitions and other changes to the dwelling stock".

Supporting housing delivery through development contributions

  • Earlier this year, the MHCLG consulted on reforms to the existing system of developer contributions – recognising that no single solution exists to improve the housing market. The government has now issued its comments on the outcome of the consultation: "Government response to support housing delivery through development contributions" which sets out how it is approaching the issue, including: reforms to the plan-making system and a fresh approach to assessing local housing need.

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