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Social Housing Speed Read – Housing White Paper published

In this week's Speed Read we are taking an initial look at the long awaited Housing White Paper which was released last week and what the sector reaction has been so far.

We will also be releasing speed reads supplemental to the Housing White Paper in the coming weeks which will concentrate on each of the key aspects of the paper and what impact they will have on the Social Housing sector.

What’s it all about?

Unless you’ve been stranded on a desert island for the past few months, free from the modern day trappings of Wi-Fi, the internet and instantaneous news bulletins, you can’t have failed to notice the Housing White Paper finally surfaced on Tuesday 7 February.

Indeed so much Government focus has been placed on it that it has not only received (the expected) heavy press coverage from the sector, but it has featured on national news and it was even deemed sufficiently newsworthy for Newsnight on its day of release.

The aim of the Housing White Paper is clearly emblazoned on its cover: “Fixing our broken housing market”. It even goes on to acknowledge that “the housing market in this country is broken, and the cause is very simple: for too long we haven’t built enough homes”.

So if it’s broke, can the Government fix it? Well the paper certainly contains a whole raft of measures and policies aimed at kick-starting its recovery.

When speaking at the British Property Federation’s National Residential Investment Conference, following the Housing White Paper’s release, Sir Edward Lister described one such policy – the introduction of housing delivery targets for Councils as “the most important factor in the Government achieving its target of building a million homes by 2020”.

He added that the proposed delivery plans have wide application and include “absolutely everybody” ranging from housing associations through to developers.

What has been announced?

The key announcements of the Housing White Paper include:

  • providing a consistent model for setting housing delivery targets for councils’ local plans;
  • a new rent standard for the Social Housing sector following 2020 (with the continuation of the 1% rent decrease to continue until then);
  • the removal of the 20% requirement for Starter Homes on sites and the target of 200,000 Starter Homes by 2020;
  • new guidelines to encourage the compulsory purchase of undeveloped land;
  • Councils to include Right to Buy schemes in homes built through Council companies; and
  • the criteria for the Affordable Housing Programme has been relaxed to allow for a range of homes to benefit from funding, including affordable rent.

Under the Housing White Paper’s proposals, the Homes and Communities Agency will also be rebranded “Homes England” and its aim will be to increase the building of homes on public land, and in doing so encourage both competition and partnership.

What has been the sector’s response so far?

It is clear from these proposals that the Government has recognised the diverse housing requirements of the modern household and affordability, particularly for the younger generation, and has reaffirmed its commitment to providing more homes of mixed tenure to cater for these varying needs.

Certainly the Government is looking to the sector to play an active role in solving the housing problem, with their confirmation within the paper that “housing associations have a vital role to play if we are to build the homes we need”. They even go on to acknowledge the contribution housing associations already make “in building the vast majority of new affordable homes, in addition to increasing numbers if homes for market rent and sale”.

This commitment has undoubtedly received positive reactions from the sector with the National Housing Federation describing the Housing White Paper as indicating a more “comprehensive and strategic framework to fix the housing crisis”.

Neil Hadden, the Chief Executive of Genesis, has also echoed this by confirming that “housing associations have been waiting with bated breath for this paper, and it is heartening to see the Government has noted what the sector has delivered to date, the scale and ambition to go even further and the support require to make that happen”.

Some other commentators have received these announcements with cautious optimism, with the Local Government Association acknowledging that whilst it is very positive that the Government has listened to Councils’ concerns in relation to the housing market, they stress the need for increased funding to enable the problem to be solved.

Terrie Alafat, the Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, has also confirmed that she was pleased to see recognition of the need for a wider range of organisations to build new homes, but underlined the need for the Government to “back up the package of measures announced…with additional funding and resource in the budget”.

What can we expect in the future?

In order to implement the programme of reform as set out in the Housing White Paper, the Government will carry out a consultation which will focus on a range of specific planning proposals as well as amending the National Planning Policy Framework.

We will of course update you on these matters in due course. In the meantime, you can look forward to the first in our series of speed reads concentrating on each of the key aspects of the Housing White Paper.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.


Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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