Theresa May to unveil housing plans

Michael Lloyd

March 5, 2018

Theresa May is to lay down the government’s latest plans to tackle the housing crisis.

Supported by the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, and that of Dominic Raab, Housing Minister, a number of initiatives are to be unveiled.

Theses include: the creation of up to five new towns between Oxford and Cambridge to create the UK’s own ‘Silicon Corridor’, or a so-called ‘Brain Belt’, and supporting transport infrastructure including an expressway and enhanced rail services between the two cities.

There will also be the removal of decision making from local councils that continually fail to build adequate homes with the introduction of minimum housing targets for each area and a tough enforcement approach based on the delivery of those homes. Fifteen councils have failed to conclude their Local Development Plans. There’s a focus on providing geo-targeted ‘affordable’ housing for key workers where there is a shortage of such stock

The PM also will pledge continued Green Belt protection, an encouragement for developers to ‘build upwards’ in cities and a ‘use it or lose it’ policy on land owned by developers with planning permission.

Theresa May will say: “I want to see planning permissions going to people who are actually going to build houses, not just sit on land and watch its value rise.”

Downing Street said the new rules will see about 80 of last year’s Housing White Paper proposals implemented to “make the system fairer and more effective by streamlining the process, cutting red tape and ending barriers to building”.

Russell Quirk, founder and chief executive of Emoov.co.uk, believes that the government’s failure to deliver their aspirations of 300,000 homes a year could become their downfall at the next election.

Quirk said: “While the government’s struggle to build enough affordable homes has kept them in favour with UK homeowners who continue to get richer as a result, these voters are also getting older and inevitably will diminish in volume.

“The Conservatives managed just 187,000 of the 300,000 homes pledged last year and even that’s up on previous years.

“If they continue along this path of failure where the younger generation is concerned, they run the risk of finally losing out to Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘young populism’ at the next General Election.

“It is unlikely that anything will come of the latest in a long line of bold promises, but it should. For too long the developers charged with building our homes have held us to ransom by land banking.

“At the same time, local councillors under pressure from NIMBYs across the nation would rather protect their own seat then take steps to solve the crisis on a local level.

While no one wants to be put on the naughty step, it is about time we take the democracy out of the home building process and penalise those who don’t take the necessary action required to help solve it.”

Emoov has been critical of these failures and has set out suggestions to help fix the death of housing supply. These include reclassifying the not-so-green bits of the green belt for development. 1% of green belt built upon would equal 600,000 new homes. Emoov suggested mandating that local authorities and central government departments identify their own available land for building upon. They currently sit on 180,000 land assets.

It encouraged developers to build more of their land bank through tax breaks and incentives

Quirk added: “The formation of a housing developer owned by the taxpayer and run like a private house builder and tasked with constructing homes on public land unfettered by long-term profit targets

“The removal of ‘too much democracy’ from local planning decisions given the influence that NIMBYs have on elected councillors fearful of re-election and which I saw first-hand as Chairman of Planning at Brentwood Council.”

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