The love affair with changing the planning
system as the panacea for solving the housing crisis is in full
swing. The Government has now succeeded in forcing through
parliament what may prove to be one of the most fundamental changes
to housing delivery in modern times. A valiant attempt was made by
the House of Lords, spear-headed by Lord Kerslake, to challenge
what will be a fundamental shake up of social housing as we have
come to know it.
A housing crusade and a move from 'generation rent' to
'generation buy' was a core manifesto commitment of the
Conservative government. Surveys suggested more than 60% of
those renting privately wanted to buy their own homes and the
affordability of homes was often the sole reason they did not
buy. Starter Homes was heralded as the answer.
Starter Homes will be new build homes offered at 20% market
discount for first-time purchasers under the age of 40 (price
restrictions of £450,000 in London and £250,000
elsewhere). With average house prices in London now standing
at over £500,000 it is difficult to gauge the enthusiasm with
which new housebuilders will embrace this change (absent the
various funds established to promote take-up).
There are however reasons to be hopeful: the price caps can be
reviewed by the Secretary of State and may therefore be able to
keep tabs on market factors. In addition to this much of the
detail is to be brought through regulation and if the various
government manifestos and consultation documents are followed
through, allowing for the policies listed below, we may see a
significant increase in house building:
The Starter Homes requirement
will place a duty on local authorities to promote them. I can
see the potential for developers to argue that the traditional
forms of affordable housing cannot be provided if Starter Homes are
included in the scheme and some Councils may be agreeable to such
proposals without necessarily going through protracted viability
Starter Homes exception
sites, if introduced could allow the conversion of
commercial/retail and industrial land to be used for housing.
While requiring Starter Homes they would remove requirements for
other forms of affordable housing, an obvious win for house
The Secretary of State could
issue a non-conforming statement which effectively overrides local
plan policies which do not contain a requirement to promote Starter
Homes. Given how long it takes to change development plan
policies, I can see significant opportunities for housebuilders to
promote Starter Homes schemes now to benefit from the inevitable
Green Belt, brownfield land development
will be more acceptable for housing with Starter
The Government's pledge to deliver 200,000 Starter Homes by
2020 is something which it will want to see delivered upon and
there may be significant opportunities to capitalise on them over
the next few years.
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