Wed 03 Dec 2014 View all news articles

Government plan to boost affordable house building

The Government has set out new measures to bring fresh impetus to affordable house building.

Its latest push on housing ahead of the election came alongside publication of the fifth National Infrastructure Plan yesterday and includes plans for a new garden town in Bicester.

The new packages of measures will include support for construction of up to 13,000 homes in the second of its three planned garden towns.

Earlier this year it announced plans to pump £200 million into construction of 15,000 new homes on a brownfield site at Ebbsfleet in Kent.

The Treasury also pledged to extend the capital settlement for affordable housing by £957m in 2018-19 and 2019-20 to ensure that 275,000 new affordable homes can be delivered over the next Parliament.

It is also committing to release public sector land for up to 150,000 homes over the next Parliament.

One of the key proposals is for the Government to masterplan, directly commission, build and even sell homes.

A pilot programme on a Government-owned former RAF base in Northstowe, near Cambridge, will see the Homes and Communities Agency leading development of 10,000 homes, twice as fast as conventional approaches.

This is the first time in a generation that the government has owned land, led a development on it at this scale, and considered commissioning homes directly for sale. 

It hopes this approach wills fast-track the development by providing certainty making new homes available more quickly.

Chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said: “New houses support economic growth and are a crucial element of a fair society, so I’ve prioritised the investment of almost £2 billion to ensure we can build on average 55,000 new homes a year until 2020.

“Combined with the other measures we are announcing, we will vastly increase supply by providing funding certainty, unlocking capacity in housing associations and kick starting stalled regeneration projects.”

The Treasury has also agreed to consult on ways to increase the borrowing capacity of housing associations in relation to the valuation of properties transferred from local authorities.

Funding approval was also granted from the £150m estate regeneration programme for four major London schemes to help hit affordable housing targets in the Capital.

Subject to due diligence and contract negotiations, 8,000 homes will be built at Grahame Park, Blackwall Reach, Aylesbury Estate and New Union Wharf.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles said: “We’ve seen how getting the country building has been key to our long term economic plan – helping hard-working people become homeowners and creating thousands of construction jobs.
“Today we’re offering a blueprint for how we maintain this momentum, supporting local communities to deliver the homes they want to see, making the best possible use of brownfield land and protecting the Green Belt.
“Taken together with our plans for a new programme of affordable housebuilding, these measures could deliver over 200,000 new homes across the country.”
Welcoming the news, Grainia Long, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), said: "CIH has been calling on the Government to recognise housing as a critically important form of infrastructure for some time so its place in the plan is welcome. We've been failing to build the number of new homes we need for decades - the result is a housing crisis in which millions of people are being priced out of a decent home.

"We need radical solutions if we are to have any hope of solving this crisis within a generation, so the Government pilot to directly commission 10,000 new homes at Northstowe - and to examine the potential of this model on a bigger scale - is a very welcome development. Earlier this year I called on the Government to set a national target for house-building, and as we have pointed out, the only time when we have built anywhere near the number of homes we need in recent history has been when the government has played a direct and active role in providing new homes."

On the plan for a new garden town at Bicester, Grainia Long added: "If we are going to build the number of homes that we need to solve the housing crisis, garden cities and other new developments are going to be a huge part of the mix."

But she warned that the Government should also be looking to fund new homes for social as well as 'affordable' rent.
She said: "We need more homes for social rent so that people struggling on low incomes can afford a decent home. Affordable rent has a role to play but it doesn't work for everyone - as it can be up to 80 per cent of market rent it is simply not affordable for many people, especially in London and the south east."
Ruth Davison, director at the National Housing Federation, said the announcements signal that Government has finally recognised the severity of the country’s housing crisis.
She added: “We welcome the proposals which speed up house building, bring forward land suitable for new homes and help people get a foot on the property ladder.
“We also welcome the commitment to consult about changing the way housing associations value their properties to enable them to borrow more money and invest in local communities, at no extra cost to the public purse – ultimately producing tens of thousands of new homes. It recognises the key role housing associations have in ending the housing crisis.  
“Whilst any investment in boosting the supply of new homes is welcome, what we really need is a strategic long term plan which will end the housing crisis within a generation.”
Homes and Communities Agency chief executive, Andy Rose, said: “The measures outlined support further progress on the major HCA site at Northstowe, extend a key HCA programme and recognise the significant contribution to housing delivery of public sector land. These reflect the Government’s confidence in the HCA to work with our local partners to create successful places with homes and jobs.
“As a priority site for us, and our council partners, the HCA will lead development at Northstowe, making full use of our commercial, planning and strategic development expertise gained through the support we already provide to partners in developing their strategic priorities on sites around the country.”
“With nearly £2 billion additional grant funding announced nationally, Government continues to recognise the importance of affordable housing in meeting local priorities and contributing to overall housing supply. The 2-year extension to the Affordable Homes Programme gives continued momentum for affordable housing delivery to 2020.
“Additionally, increasing the speed with which land is made available for development is core business for the HCA, using our knowledge and expertise in managing assets. We are well placed to work closely with our local partners to help them achieve their housing priorities.
“Taken together, these measures represent an opportunity for our partners to meet the needs of the local communities in which they operate with support from the HCA.”

Source: Housing News

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