Commenting on the expected headline announcement from the Housing Bill, which will see the government work with local communities if councils fail to produce and deliver on local housing plans, Jan Crosby, Head of Housing at KPMG, says:
“A local approach to house building is a no brainer when it comes to delivering the needs of a community, and this announcement could be a welcome way of empowering that community to act as a real agent for change, perhaps even aiding planning decisions across local authority boundaries. While it will be interesting to see further detail, this move looks set to unlock many of the disconnects between national and local level strategy, which have helped contribute to the current housing crisis. By acting decisively and emphasising the importance of local housing plans, the government is helping tackle that crisis in a way that the whole sector can get behind, after the widespread and understandable criticism recently faced for its ‘generation buy’ focus.
“Of course, the key now will be a robust mechanism to engage with local communities. While 2017 may seem like a way off, getting the detail right will take some time. What we have to hope is that the spirit of innovation in this decision will prevail, and we won’t find any new pieces of red tape creeping in.”
“The new legal duty placed on councils to guarantee the delivery of Starter Homes [on all reasonably sized sites] will certainly be welcomed by those first time buyers on good incomes who have been priced out of ownership for too long. The problem, however, is the choice now given to house builders to build Starter Homes, rather than homes for affordable rent. Inevitably, many will make that choice - it is a simple case of economics. For those for whom home ownership isn’t an option, and who rely on housing associations to provide a home to rent affordably, the situation will certainly get worse rather than better. Many housing associations rely on taking on house builders’ affordable rented stock, but there won’t be as much available. And for housing associations there is another issue – under the new Right to Buy model, which they voted in, housing associations are being asked to provide a new home for every one sold – Starter Homes will see a major route to do this cut off.
“What’s more, we will see a decrease in mixed tenure developments, and an increasingly divided community defined by whether they are an ‘owner’ or a ‘renter’, something which will stymie the social mobility the Government has said it is keen to see.”
Automatic planning permission on brownfield sites:
“We have been calling for relaxation of planning permission on brownfield sites for some time – without the land, we simply cannot build the homes we need. We therefore heartily welcome this announcement and are hopeful it will be just the start of a series of land reforms. Next, we would look for greater transparency of land values, so that developers and local authorities know what is available and how much it is worth. If there is greater clarity over the land market, whether it be urban, brownfield or even greenfield land, we can help bring the price of land down, and therefore the price of the homes built on it.”
Conversion of offices into homes without the need to apply for planning permission:
“The move to allow disused office space to be converted into homes could help transform how we use our town centres. Increasingly, many town centres are filled with disused buildings, which lie vacant, while those living in the local area struggle to find affordable homes. By removing the need for planning permission, it will be far easier for developers to repurpose office buildings for residential use, and in places which are actually perfect for people to live. Town centre living enables people to live near jobs, transport and other amenities, at the same time as bringing life back into the area. What’s needed now is to look at other kinds of development, retail being an obvious one, which could be given similar dispensation to be developed into much needed homes.”
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Franches Shennan, KPMG Corporate Communications
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