The announcements in the Budget about stamp duty changes to benefit first-time buyers and the funding boost for new homes and construction projects [http://talkingpropertylaw.gateleyplc.com/2017/11/27/budget-heres-need-know/] are examples of the Government’s commitment to ‘fix’ the housing market.

To help achieve the aim of more homes in the right places, it has announced a package of measures:

  • £15.3 billion of new financial support for housing over the next five years
  • introducing planning reforms to ensure more land is available for housing
  • providing £204 million of funding for innovation and skills in the construction sector.

Planning reforms

The Budget builds on the reforms announced in the Housing White Paper [http://talkingpropertylaw.gateleyplc.com/2017/02/15/housing-white-paper-implications-housebuilders/]. The Government commits to consult on a range of planning reforms including:

  • a new policy that local authorities will be expected to permission land outside their plan on the condition that a high proportion of the homes are offered for discounted sale for first-time buyers or for affordable rent (this will exclude land in the Green Belt)
  • minimum densities for housing development in city centres and around transport hubs, with greater support for the use of compulsory purchase powers for site assembly
  • a permitted development right to allow commercial buildings to be demolished and replaced with homes
  • the promised review of CIL, including giving Combined Authorities and planning joint committees with statutory plan-making functions the option to levy a Strategic Infrastructure Tariff in future, in the same way that the London Mayoral CIL is providing funding towards Crossrail. This Tariff would be additional to CIL.

Building out faster

The Government will consult on a number of proposals, including speeding up the development process by removing the exemptions from the deemed discharge rules. To get more of a grip on speed of build out, it will set up a review panel, chaired by Sir Oliver Letwin, to explain the gap between housing completions and the amount of land allocated or permissioned – and make recommendations for closing it. The review will provide an interim report for the Spring Statement 2018 and a full report at Budget 2018.

Housing Investment

Another package of measures including:

  • strengthening the ability of the Homes and Communities Agency (to be renamed Homes England) to use investment and planning powers to intervene more actively in the land market. Homes England will have £1.1 billion in a new Land Assembly Fund to work alongside private developers to develop strategic sites
  • a further £2.7 billion allocated to the Housing Infrastructure Fund
  • housing deal negotiations to support more strategic and zonal planning approaches. For example, the Government has agreed a deal where Oxfordshire has agreed to bring forward for adoption a joint statutory spatial plan and commit to 100,000 homes in the county by 2031, in return for a package of Government support over the next five years, including £30 million a year for infrastructure
  • additional Government funding for on-site infrastructure and land remediation to accelerate building on small, stalled sites.

Clearly the Government does not want to leave any stone unturned in attempting to achieve its commitment to raise housing supply during its term in office to reach 300,000 a year. It is pushing on all fronts and it will be important for those in the home-building industry to reply to the consultations and hopefully remove as many barriers and frustrations as possible in the process between site acquisitions and plot completions.