What housing policies might we expect from Boris’s new government?

Downing Street, home of the pmBoris’s government has in recent months announced a number of housing policies designed to help home buyers and renters. So, now he can act, who will benefit?

Home buyers

Local people who are unable to buy in their home area will be eligible for discounts of 30% ‘in perpetuity’, paid for from developers’ contributions (the Community Infrastructure Levy) through the planning process. Local first time buyers and key workers, such as police or nurses, could benefit.

Such a scheme of discounted open market low cost housing has already been piloted in some areas. However, the secondary legislation is yet to come into force that was required for the government’s 2015 policy. This aimed to build 200,000 homes in England that would be sold at 20% below market value to first time buyers below the age of 40.

An estimated two million renters could afford mortgage payments if they were able to afford a deposit. These households would be helped into property ownership by the introduction of long-term, perhaps even life-time, fixed rate mortgage rates requiring a 5% deposit, in a scheme possibly underwritten by pension funds or other institutional investors. To some degree it could be supported by a scheme similar to Help to Buy that is currently due to end in 2023.

The idea of relaxing the affordability rules has proved contraversial. The Bank of England recently concluded that house price growth in excess of 7% per annum supported by stable wages would lead to a loosening of the lending rules to enable borrowers to access higher loan to value mortgages.

Voluntary Right to Buy 

The Voluntary Right to Buy scheme, offering discounts of between 35% and 70% of the value of a property up to £80,900, will be maintained for eligible housing association tenants. A two-year pilot scheme across the Midlands resulted in 529 agreed sales and will be extended to other areas.

The scheme is centrally funded, rather than discounted through the sale of council houses, and has a ‘portability’ element that requires people living in an exempt home to be offered an alternative property. Each home sold is replaced by another at a minimum of affordable (not social) rent although it is not necessarily built in the same area.

The housing secretary announced in August that housing association tenants will have the right to buy 10% equity of their newly built homes, which could be increased in 1% increments, although the impact of this change raised immediate concerns in the sector.

New home building

A target has been set of building one million new homes of any tenure over the next five years to 2025. This is the same number of households currently on the waiting list for council houses.

New homes would be built of improved quality and design, and would be environmentally friendly, with lower energy bills and new streets lined with trees. Builders will be ‘encouraged’ to build innovatively designed homes that are more affordable and accessible to the disabled and elderly.

Homes built after 2025 to have low or zero-carbon emissions and energy efficiency at the ‘highest levels’.

Putting infrastructure ahead of new home building, meaning doctor’s surgeries and schools would be built prior to the building of new homes.

Affordable Homes Programme

Renew the Affordable Homes Programme to deliver more affordable homes.

Publish a Social Housing White Paper that was due in spring 2019, to build more social homes and provide greater redress and improved regulations to make social housing better.

Rough sleeping

The Rough Sleeping Strategy pledged to halve rough sleeping by 2022. There are new proposals to end rough sleeping over the life of the parliament by extending pilot schemes including a Flexible Homelessness Support Grant, Rough Sleeping Initiative and Housing First.

Private renters

The ‘uncertain and unsettling business’ of renting a property has been targeted. Tenants of private rented property could benefit from a lifetime rental deposit that would allow the transfer of their deposit to a new tenancy when moving home.

Bring an end to ‘no fault evictions’ that prevent renters from challenging their eviction and cut down on rogue landlords through banning orders, the rogue landlord database and HMOs.

Leasehold reforms

While leasehold reform hasn’t recently been mentioned, there has been the suggestion that leasehold tenure on new houses would be banned and ground rents on new leasehold properties would become zero. Existing leaseholds, some of which have doubled in cost every decade,  would also be tackled in the review including making it easier for owners of leasehold property to buy their freehold.

Building safety

A buildings safety regulator will provide support for residents of high-rise buildings for the removal of unsafe cladding. The October data release reported that 318 residential and public-owned buildings were yet to be remediated in England. Around 17,000 households still live in buildings that pose a danger.

A new ‘protection board’ will ensure the safety of buildings built with similar materials to Grenfell, and will be responsible for buildings yet to be made safe.

Planning process

Local planning authorities would be required to consult with residents to allow communities to decide their own design standards for new developments.

The planning system will be reformed to ensure that homes that are needed are built in the ‘right places’ and make it simpler for ‘the public and small builders’ to build for people already living in an area.

An accelerated White Paper to be introduced to speed up planning process and make it possible to reclaim fees if the council takes too long. 

The Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap removed to allow councils to build 10,000 homes a year by 2021/22.

Back to December 2019 Newsletter

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