The long awaited White Paper, entitled 'Fixing our broken housing market', finally emerged from DCLG on February 7th. It signals the government's direction of travel under Theresa May, with an emphasis on a fairer Britain supporting the hard working for whom housing has become increasing unaffordable. Consultation on some of the key proposals closes on 2 May 2017.
The Prime Minister's foreword highlights some key statistics. Average housing costs stand at almost eight times average earnings. The proportion of those living in private rented accommodation has doubled since 2000. More than 2.2 million working households with below-average incomes spend a third or more of their disposable income on housing, making it a struggle to save for a deposit or retirement. The starting point, she says, is to build more homes to slow the rise in housing costs and bring the cost of renting down. More houses, of the right type, in the right place.
Gentle evolution not revolution is the order of the day. The plan-led system remains intact, but up-to-date plans must be put in place. Communities must be comfortable with how new homes look. Permissions must be built out quickly. The planning system will be invested in. Smaller house builders, housing associations, local authorities building houses and new investors will all be supported, as will innovative construction methods. All welcome aims. But does the White Paper do enough to overcome the fundamental tensions between pursuing extensive housing growth, whilst preserving the green belt and giving control to local communities?