THE HOUSING WHITE PAPER WAS PUBLISHED ON TUESDAY 7 FEBRUARY 2017, TOGETHER WITH ANOTHER CONSULTATION DOCUMENT "PLANNING AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR BUILD TO RENT" (KNOWN SIMPLY AS "BUILD TO RENT"). THE CONSULTATION PERIOD CLOSES FOR THE BUILD TO RENT CONSULTATION ON 1 MAY 2017 AND FOR THE HOUSING WHITE PAPER ON 2 MAY 2017.
Those in the property industry are assessing whether and how to respond to the Government's proposals. Many summaries of the Housing White Paper and Build to Rent consultations have been produced by the property press and industry bodies for this purpose. This is our analysis of the main issues impacting the clients we serve.
Although split into four distinct chapters, the White Paper amounts to a web of proposals intended to work together and with other legislation and policy such as the Neighbourhood Planning Bill and the National Planning Policy Framework (the "NPPF"). The amount of detail behind the proposals in the White Paper varies. In some places, clarification is awaited following further consultation, particularly on how the NPPF will be amended and how standardised approaches to assessment will be worked out. We also await the Government's response to the review of the Community Infrastructure Levy ("CIL") and section 106 obligations following its publication of the responses to the 2015 consultation; this is not expected until the Autumn Budget. However, there is greater clarity about other issues, particularly the intention behind them.
The outcome that the Government seeks from the Housing White Paper and Build to Rent consultation is an increase in the supply of appropriate housing in England to meet demand. It proposes to achieve this by planning for the right homes in the right places, building homes faster and encouraging diversification of the housing market.
1. Affordable housing
The Government recognises a need to promote the supply of housing for rent. It proposes to expand the definition of affordable housing to include homes offered for Affordable Private Rent, and is encouraging the growth of rental housing developments by institutional investors. According to the Government's proposals, such developments should include 20% of private homes offered as Affordable Private Rent at a discount of 20%, in perpetuity. The Government is promoting 'family friendly' three-year tenancies, particularly for the Build to Rent market.
Flexibility in what type of affordable housing can be offered is extended to the proposed percentage of Starter Homes in developments. The Government has clarified the definition of Starter Homes, which will be available only to households with an income of less than £80,000 (£90,000 in London), will only be available to first time buyers with a mortgage, and will have a 15 year repayment period to reduce the risk of speculation. The Government is no longer proposing that all housing developments must include 20% Starter Homes, but instead proposes that housing sites should deliver a minimum of 10% affordable home ownership units and that there will be a general duty on councils to promote the supply of Starter Homes as part of a mixed package of affordable housing according to local need.
2. Brownfield land and the Green Belt
National policy will be amended to encourage the release of more brownfield land for developments with a higher proportion of Starter Homes, including brownfield land within the Green Belt. There will also be a presumption that brownfield land is suitable for housing unless there are clear and specific reasons to the contrary.
Green Belt restrictions are not to be relaxed. The Government wants to retain Green Belt protection but improve transparency. The Green Belt "exceptional circumstances" test will be clarified in the NPPF to make it clear that Green Belt boundaries should only be amended where authorities can demonstrate that they have fully examined all other reasonable options for meeting identified requirements. And, where land is to be removed from the Green Belt, the impact should be offset, such as by compensatory improvements to the environmental quality or accessibility of remaining Green Belt land. When carrying out a Green Belt review, national policy will make clear that local authorities should look first at using any Green Belt land which has been previously developed and/or which surrounds transport hubs.