White Paper on housing

White Paper on housing

Policy and Projects Manager Edward Douglas has responded to the publication of the Government’s White Paper on housing.

“This is a welcome step forward for housing policy in this country. The White Paper is a comprehensive and nuanced account of the problems we face, and the measures announced will help to get the market working for all.”

Commenting on the implications of the White Paper for each of the core themes of ResPublica’s Housing Programme, Edward said:

On boosting new supply

“For too long, the delivery of new homes has not kept up with demand across all types of housing. As the Government has here recognised, we need more affordable, comfortable and secure homes for rent. The White Paper’s support for the Build to Rent sector, help to get councils building again and more flexibility in affordable housing funding will help build those much-needed homes, and support for SME builders will help to improve diversity in the market.

“This broad focus is very welcome, because it is vital that we build more homes of all types so that we better serve the needs of all people at each stage of their lives. The question is whether these measures will ramp up supply sufficiently. We believe that the stage is now set for further action to provide the certainty builders need to deliver at scale – which our proposed National Housing Fund would do.”

On closing the home ownership gap

“While the White Paper has been seen as a shift in policy from home ownership to renting, there are some welcome measures to support the former. Indirectly, over the long-term building more homes for rent will reduce pressures on household incomes and help more people to save. Flexibility on affordable housing money will allow providers to innovate to give tenants new routes into ownership. And the Lifetime ISA coming in April will help savers get towards the housing ladder.

“But we must not forget that one of the most significant aspects of the housing crisis is the growing asset inequality and housing instability it has triggered. We need a dual approach to give renters new prospects for owning over the long-term.

“That means going beyond the traditional social housing model of councils owning and tenants renting, which does not give those on the lowest incomes a prospect of ownership. Instead, we need to give renters a stake in where they live, and ultimately providing new routes for them to own.”

On supporting regeneration and place-making

“It’s vital that a new housebuilding drive takes local people with it. That means promoting high quality design in the built environment and providing the infrastructure that places need to thrive. And it also means giving people a meaningful say in the process.

“The proposed consultation on public land disposal, and the prospect of allowing local authorities more flexibility to dispose of land at less than best consideration, is a welcome announcement. This could be a win-win if done in the right way – local authorities can use their assets to generate long-term revenue streams, and can do this in a way that supports different models of development to build successful, vibrant and beautiful places that truly meet local needs.

“The White Paper also has a welcome focus on the wider social and economic benefits of estate regeneration – alongside community engagement, this is key to understanding the merits and demerits of schemes, and reflects the findings of our recent paper Great Estates.

On community empowerment and design

 Policy Manager Duncan Sim, who runs our Backing Beauty campaign, added:

“The tone and content of the White Paper signifies a very welcome recognition that, if we are to achieve the increase in housebuilding the Government desires, this must be done with the support of local people and with the opportunity for them to give substantive input. ResPublica has consistently argued that communities must be given the chance to set out their vision of how their area should evolve, and the tools to make this vision a reality. We therefore welcome the ambition of the White Paper in this regard.

“We particularly welcome the Government’s commitment to continue funding support for neighbourhood planning groups; this echoes the call we made ahead of the Autumn Statement for existing support programmes to be maintained. It is also encouraging to see the Paper’s acknowledgement of the public health benefits of beautiful design, as highlighted in our initial 2015 report A Community Right to Beauty.

“The increase in local authority planning fees the Paper provides for will allow local authorities to more effectively support communities seeking to protect their area from poor quality or unattractive development, and to more rigorously enforce the provisions of neighbourhood plans. The Paper’s proposal to amend the NPPF to include an expectation that all neighbourhood and local plans will set out clear design guidelines represents a real chance for local people to beautify their place.

“While there is much to welcome in the Paper however, we believe the tools offered to communities still do not go far enough, or recognise the need to provide enhanced practical and financial support to local people in deprived areas, who our research shows feel least strongly that their area offers them beauty. Given the paper’s focus on design, we are disappointed that the importance of promoting attractive design specifically in less affluent communities is not explicitly recognised.”

For more on our work on housing, please contact Policy and Projects Manager Edward Douglas at edward.douglas@respublica.org.uk or on 020 3857 8318


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