6th January Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Happy New Year to you all – I hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas break and are raring to get started. I cannot believe 2017 is here already, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the next 12 months have in store for us – I think it’s certainly going to be a busy one!

It might only be the first week back to work, but 2017 has definitely started off on the right foot. We had two major and very promising, housing announcements before lunchtime on Tuesday, which hopefully sets a precedent for the year ahead of us.

The government confirmed that they plan on building discounted starter homes for young, first-time buyers, this year- part of their project to build 400,000 new affordable homes. The starter homes will be sold at a 20 per cent discount to first-time buyers aged between 23 and 40 and will be capped at price of £250,000 outside of London.

The first starter homes will be built on brownfield sites across the country and the first wave of 30 local authority partnerships, including Northumberland County Council, were selected for their ability to get the scheme up and running quickly.  The partnerships will have access to the government’s £1.2bn Starter Homes Land Fund and will see councils will work closely with the Homes and Communities Agency to identify and take forward further land opportunities for the fund – let’s hope the councils show interest, step up and help the scheme live up to its full potential.

And for first-time buyers the good news continues. The government also announced this week that England’s first garden villages have been proposed for 14 sites across the country to deliver between 1,500 and 10,000 properties.

The garden villages are to be built to a high quality, be attractive and well designed and are being built purposely to meet the huge housing need. Although there are no plans to build the villages in the North East just yet (the closest is Cumbria as a proposed Ponteland site has been submitted but not approved yet) it will be interesting to see how well they work and if they serve their purpose.

It’s always good to start the year on a positive note, and it’s encouraging to see that the government is putting house building at the front of its plans for 2017. The government’s White Paper on housing supply is expected later this month, and will set out its plans for building new homes – come on prime minister, please don’t let us down!

We can achieve a lot in a year, and it would be great to look back this time next year, and say that we’ve achieved everything we needed to, so let’s get our heads down and give the industry exactly what it needs.

I have a feeling this could be our year, change is going to come so bring it on 2017, we’re ready for you!