In early August, Boris Johnson unveiled a “as soon as in a era” shake-up of England’s planning system. However the radical reforms have been criticised for failing to deal with the best housing problem going through the youthful era: a scarcity of reasonably priced properties.
“Because of our planning system, we’ve nowhere close to sufficient properties in the precise locations,” mentioned the prime minister. The proposed reforms would see extra properties constructed, in accordance with ministers, permitting provide to meet up with demand and making property extra reasonably priced to these most in want.
However a variety of housing consultants, builders and campaigners disagree.
“Broadly, constructing extra properties goes to be good, however it received’t change total affordability,” mentioned Neal Hudson, an unbiased housing analyst. “The federal government received’t really wish to ship so many homes that costs had been to fall — that will be political suicide,” he added.
Low rates of interest and quick access to mortgages have helped push up costs, whereas wages have grown at a slower fee. That — quite than undersupply — has made residence possession unaffordable for a lot of, argues Ian Mulheirn, chair of housing marketing campaign group Technology Hire and an government director on the Tony Blair Institute.
“The proper has tended to take the view that getting provide up is the route to creating housing cheaper. The issue is that’s not likely true. A scarcity of provide will not be the reason for excessive home costs; and rising provide is not going to clear up it,” he mentioned.
Whereas the variety of new properties delivered every year has risen over the previous decade, so too have costs in England. This pattern was introduced into sharp focus by Nationwide Constructing Society knowledge this week that confirmed costs reached an all-time excessive in August in opposition to a backdrop of the deepest recession on file — partially as a result of authorities introducing a stamp obligation vacation.
Critics say that the federal government’s proposed planning shake-ups strip away the present mechanism for supplying reasonably priced housing with out placing ahead a transparent various.
Roughly half of all “reasonably priced housing” — outlined as properties bought or rented at a reduction to native market charges — is presently funded by builders, who agree a contribution with native authorities earlier than they will begin constructing.
However ministers have proposed scrapping these necessities, often called Part 106 agreements, which final 12 months contributed £4.7bn in direction of reasonably priced housing, and changing them with a brand new “infrastructure levy”.
The levy will contribute as a lot if no more reasonably priced housing, in accordance with the federal government. However the proposals had been“very gentle” on element and had been got down to please all events — builders, councils and homebuyers — mentioned Judith Salomon, strategic planning director at Pocket Dwelling, a small builder.
Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, has requested an pressing assembly with Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, to debate what the scrapping of Part 106 would imply for reasonably priced housing, in accordance with a senior official within the mayor’s workplace.
“These proposals may have a drastic influence on the variety of reasonably priced properties constructed sooner or later . . . What this seems to be like is a centralised energy seize for planning management,” the official mentioned.
The federal government’s paper is affected by references to affordability, and describes planning as “a query of social justice”. To assist reply that query — and so as to revive the nation’s stuttering economic system — Mr Johnson has pledged a constructing spree.
That entails getting rid of the present planning framework, which permits native folks to air their opposition to new improvement at varied factors within the course of, and changing it with a US-style “zoning” system.
Below the proposals, binding housing targets can be set nationally and handed right down to native planning authorities, which might then be requested to carve their districts into distinct zones. Some zones can be shielded from any development, whereas in others builders would obtain one thing near an automated inexperienced gentle.
The proposals confirmed “the precise ambition”, mentioned Rhys Moore, an government director on the Nationwide Housing Federation, which represents housing associations.
However he warned that “merely constructing extra properties wouldn’t assist the 8.4m folks presently hit by the housing disaster on this nation . . . As an alternative, we desperately want extra social housing that folks on decrease incomes can afford — and there are numerous unanswered questions on what impact the proposed reforms may have right here”.
The planning paper makes no point out of social housing, which is rented out by native councils or housing associations to these on low incomes. As soon as a significant factor of housing provide, the development of latest social housing has slowed over the past 50 years.
Between 1980 and 1984 native authorities constructed 220,000 new properties, 1 / 4 of the whole constructed. Within the final 5 years they’ve contributed simply 10,000 — roughly 1 per cent of whole new provide. The variety of properties constructed by housing associations has elevated however not sufficient to fill the hole left by councils.
A authorities scheme providing to subsidise first-time consumers was welcome however risked prioritising one group of consumers on the expense of others, Ms Salomon warned. The “First Houses” scheme would give these shopping for their first property a 30 to 50 per cent low cost on a brand new residence. That may be locked in, with the property bought on to a different first-time purchaser on the identical low cost.
So as to make schemes viable, builders sometimes insist on promoting the vast majority of properties at market fee. By forcing builders to promote a portion of every scheme at a chunky low cost to first-time consumers, it “will inevitably cannibalise the supply of different reasonably priced housing. All socially rented housing might be worn out to offer amazingly discounted properties for first-time consumers”, mentioned Ms Salomon.
And whereas the next provide of properties would possibly progressively flatten home value progress, tearing up the planning system wouldn’t instantly lead to a development spike, mentioned Ms Salomon.
A prolonged legislative course of, resistance from the opposition Labour celebration in addition to some Tory councils, and the complication of devising new native plans based mostly on the zonal system meant the reforms won’t be in place by the subsequent parliament in 2025.
“The danger with all planning reform is you create chaos within the interim whereas it’s all being put collectively,” she mentioned.