Housebuilding is good for economic growth. It gives the working population employment and increases the amount of money in circulation by enabling first-time buyers to get on the housing ladder.
A strong economy is one with a healthy supply of housing for its population and allows for aspiration in society. This is why we welcome the announcement of plans by both the Labour Party and Prime Minister David Cameron to get the country building and create thousands of new homeowners.
The Conservative Party’s “starter homes” programme aims to encourage housebuilding on previously used brownfield land and deliver 200,000 new homes by 2020 – double the number previously promised by the coalition government.
In a written statement to parliament about the programme, housing minister Brandon Lewis explained that the starter homes programme included proposals for planning reform to support the development of new high quality, low cost starter homes for first-time buyers.
This means local authorities must now look at land considered “unviable” for housing as sites for new homes. The new national policy aims to encourage planning authorities to work with landowners and developers to get a supply of sites suitable for housing and create starter homes on brownfield sites that were not previously highlighted for development.
And first-time buyers under the age of 40 in England can now register to buy the first of these starter homes at a discount of up to 20% off the normal price. However, those who are awarded the discount will not be able to sell or let the properties at open market value for five years.
Lewis added that “in view of their contribution to meeting housing needs”, local planning authorities should not seek section 106 affordable housing and tariff-style contributions on starter homes.
Shortage of supply
Nearly 192,000 households have already been helped by the government to buy or reserve a home since 2010 through schemes like Help to Buy and the reinvigorated Right to Buy. But Government figures suggest that there will be 232,000 more households per year in the UK up to 2033, with only 137,960 homes completed in 2013.
The Labour Party says its strategy to tackle Britain’s housing crisis will involve direct intervention in the market to get more new homes built.
Shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds told the Town and Country Planning Association that her party would create Housing Growth Zones designed to build-out designated areas “at pace”, provide low-cost loans for small-sized builders and support the creation of a new generation of garden cities.
Addressing the TCPA’s annual Sir Frederic Osborn Lecture on 10 March, Reynolds accused the PM of presiding over the lowest levels of housebuilding since the 1920s. “The next Labour government will recapture the post-war spirit for building new homes and match that renewed ambition with a drive to build high quality homes and great places for new communities,” she said.
The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, want to build 10 garden cities on a new railway line to run between Oxford and Cambridge, creating an extra 50,000 new homes in an area where demand for housing is particularly intense. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg described garden cities as a “vital cornerstone” of the party’s plans, announced in 2012, to build 300,000 homes a year.
Image credit: Property Division