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Social Housing Speed Read – the Housing White Paper

We examine the latest development to unfold regarding the Housing White Paper and the reasons for this.

What are the latest developments?

Ahead of the publication of the White Paper, housebuilders have in the final days of lobbying asked the Government to include a presumption in favour of development within the planning process, even extending so far as to include brownfield land – a move which would certainly require a major overhaul of the current planning system.

This would go some way to address what some see as unnecessary constraints on the sector’s growth and would enable them to deliver greater volumes of homes.

This last-minute call for change has been justified by the Home Builders Federation who confirmed that delays within the current planning system are all too often ‘extensive’ even where headline planning consent has been obtained.

The National Housing Federation is also of the opinion that the White Paper should “create a fairer, more transparent planning system and support innovative construction techniques and housing products”.

What does this move show?

It shows that key stakeholders within the sector are actively seeking the Government’s cooperation to streamline any processes which may inhibit the progress of building new homes helping them to meet their ambitious housing targets.

t seems this is backed up with the research released last week by property consultants Savills, who confirmed that in 2016 housing associations bought four times as much land as they did in 2015, ensuring they are poised to roll out large scale developments across the country.

Ultimately they are calling for some definitive commitment from the Government on exactly how it can build new homes more efficiently and in particular those social and affordable rented properties.

The sector needs proactive measures to be taken to give them the confidence going forward to build a variety of homes which cater for both national and regional requirements.

What can we look forward to?

First and foremost the publication of the long-awaited Housing White Paper – a chance some sector commentators have identified as being “the best chance for the Government to instil real confidence in the sector”.

This will inevitably outline housing policy going forward, hopefully with the focus being on affordability, and will provide some weighting to the Government’s current offering which has so far only consisted of encouraging announcements rather than actual policies.

For confirmation of the finer details and just what we can expect to see on the housing horizon, we will have to wait until its publication given that the Housing Minister has remained tight-lipped.

However, we can take comfort from the fact that we do not have long to wait, subject to any last minute delays which have been commonplace up until now.

If these latest suggestions are incorporated within the White Paper, then it is likely to antagonise anti-development campaigners. However, when considering the backdrop of the United Kingdom facing a severe housing shortage one must sympathise with any attempt to encourage and streamline the building of houses, with the caveat that this cannot be (and is unlikely to be) the sole solution put forward by the White Paper.

Indeed we are on precipice of finding out exactly how committed the Government is to the sector and to providing viable solutions to tackle the housing crisis.

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.

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