Housing White Paper: “damp squib”

The Government has finally unveiled its plans to fix the ‘broken housing market’ in a white paper spanning 104 pages.

Among lengthy reiterations of existing housing policy schemes including Help to Buy were proposals to stop developers land banking, try to speed up planning approvals and support the delivery of more homes to rent.

But some experts have already dubbed the plans a ‘damp squib’ with little hope of fixing anything.

Secretary of State Sajid Javid told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme before revealing the bill: ‘People want a decent home to buy or a decent home to rent, it’s a choice for them, we should be helping both types of tenancies.’

But Shadow Secretary of State for Housing John Healey called the paper ‘feeble’ and added: ‘We were promised a white paper; we’ve got a white flag.’

He was not alone in his disappointment. Simon Gerrard, past president of the National Association of Estate Agents, summed up how most pundits in the industry felt about this long-awaited paper.

“Today’s announcement shows that the Government is good at producing soundbites, but not realistic solutions. It demonstrates a lack of understanding of the market and what is required to fix it.

‘The schemes outlined will be discussed and debated for longer than they are implemented, with nothing new being offered. We need to simplify the system and make it easier to build homes that people want, quickly, and I am disappointed this has not yet been achieved.”

… Jonathan Manns, head of regeneration and director of planning at Colliers International, said: ‘Dig into the (*cough*) detail and, beyond the hollow and misguiding rhetoric, there are odd tweaks to the status quo.
‘Councils, we’re told, should continue to review the targets in their local plans and ensure they’re up-to-date. Hardly ground-breaking but reassuringly familiar.’

The Government is also proposing to cut the time local authorities have to approve planning applications from three years to two.

Will it help? Gerrard doesn’t think so: ‘The introduction of capping the time between obtaining planning permission and starting construction to two years is misguided. It is not the timescale that hinders building across the UK, but the planning system itself.

‘All too often, permission is granted that is simply impossible to implement because local government departments do not communicate effectively with each other.’