BPF brands housing bill piecemeal policy

Sarah Davidson

May 27, 2015

While the organisation praised the government for several of the initiatives expected to be announced such as Starter Homes and for its focus on encouraging development on brownfield land, it is not confident that that these “piecemeal policies” will be enough to deliver the enormous number of new homes that need to be built.

The BPF has suggested that the government makes use of the independent Lyons Review, which last year scrutinised the entire planning system to deliver a comprehensive set of recommendations for large-scale delivery of new homes.

Among the recommendations were the focus on enforcing and delivering local plans, the requirement for local plans to provide for private rented homes, the commitment to encouraging institutional investment in the housing sector through clearly-agreed local partnerships, and the importance of collaborating on planning issues at a “larger than local” level.

Ahead of the speech, the BPF also expressed concern that the extension of Right to Buy to housing associations would further reduce the supply of affordable housing, as it will limit the amount of finance housing associations can generate to fund and build new homes. It said this could have a negative impact on housing associations’ ability to invest in estate renewal and so would make it harder to get urban regeneration schemes underway.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “We need decisive action and a clear vision for how government will turbo-charge housebuilding if we are to deliver the homes that future generations need.

“Last year’s Lyons Review looked at the entire planning system and came up with thoughtful and practical recommendations as to how we might increase the provision of all housing tenures, across the whole country. We would recommend that the government considers carefully the recommendations that were made in this report.

“We would also urge government to tread carefully with Right to Buy. Handled badly, it has the potential to not only exacerbate the housing crisis but to make the regeneration of our towns and cities that much harder.”

Richard Sexton, director of e.surv chartered surveyors, said: “It’s welcome to see the government acting quickly on their pre-election promises but minor tweaks to the system cannot possibly mop up all the buyers who want to get on the housing ladder today.

“Earmarking land to make it easier and quicker to self-build is a positive nod towards increased housebuilding, although the process remains far from simple. Planning regulations are still far too restrictive and the number of skilled workers who can physically put a house together is another anchor on new housing volumes.

“The extension of Right to Buy to housing association tenants does help make an unfair system more balanced. However, there will be a time lag between selling off stock, and building new properties. In the meantime, the waiting list of tenants needing housing could get substantially longer. That will have a knock-on effect on the private rented sector and the purchase market.”

David Hollingworth, associate director, communications at London & Country Mortgages, added: “The Starter Home Initiative will free up brownfield land for development and at a lower cost in order to enable the discounted pricing for eligible buyers. That will be a start at least but many will be hoping that making land more available will gather momentum if a real dent is to be made in the lack of new homes being built.

“One of the most controversial policy announcements made in the run up to the election was the intention to open up a right to buy on housing association property. There are understandable worries that making existing affordable housing stock available for purchase will reduce the availability not expand it. There will be intense scrutiny of this scheme and although those that do get to buy at a discount will be delighted the focus will be on how that stock is replaced and grown.”

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