The government has set out what it calls an innovative approach to planning new homes, including more affordable homes, to ensure they’re built where they are most needed.
The new approach, first mentioned in the government’s Housing White Paper published earlier this year, will also mean more homes are built in areas where it is unaffordable, based on average earnings in each area.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured) pointed out that councils spend an estimated £3m in taxpayers’ money every year on employing expensive consultants to work out how many new homes are needed in their area. Long legal disputes over these figures when preparing local plans can also lead to unnecessary delays and add to the costs.
He said that the proposed changes will help boost housing supply and improve affordability and help ensure councils work to a consistent approach to plan for more homes in the right places.
Javid said: “This is a crucial first step in solving the country’s housing crisis. As anyone who has tried to buy or rent a home recently would probably tell you, the housing market in this country is broken. The simple truth is that for far too long we haven’t built enough homes and we don’t build them quickly enough.
“It’s time to fix that. This new approach will cut the unnecessarily complex and lengthy debates that can delay house building. It will make sure we have a clear and realistic assessment of how many new homes are needed, and ensure local communities have a voice in deciding where they go.
The government has pledged to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020 and a further half a million more by the end of 2022 and Javid said that action to date has helped to stabilise the market and turn the tide of the economic downturn.
It is hoped that the new measures proposed will help local areas have an open conversation about the number of new homes needed, and make sure we build more houses in the places they are needed to provide for a growing population.
The proposed system does not set targets, but the consultation document says it is a starting point to ensure that it will be quicker for each local area to produce a realistic plan of its housing need and review it at least every five years and that it will make it easier for local people to engage with the plan-making process, ensuring homes are well designed to meet the needs of all the community, and important local environmental areas are protected.
In areas that struggle to meet their needs locally, for example due to strong protections for areas like the green belt, they will need to work with neighbouring councils to plan across a wider area.
There is concern that 40% of councils currently do not have neighbourhood plans and the reforms will also mean that councils will have to agree how they will work with their neighbouring areas to plan for homes and supporting infrastructure such as roads and utility services.
Neighbouring councils will be expected to set out the cross boundary matters within an agreed area, looking at the housing need for the area, distribution of homes and plans to meet any shortfalls. If effective cooperation does not take place, the government will be prepared to take action to ensure communities and neighbouring councils are not at a disadvantage and make sure the homes their area needs are planned for.