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17th February Journal Column

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

Last week, the government published the long-awaited Housing White Paper, which revealed something we’ve all known for a long time– the housing market is broken.

While the housing shortage has always been particularly bad in London, it’s getting worse up and down the country. A single Housing White Paper was never going to be broad enough to tackle all of the current issues that the housing market has, but it does set out a framework which is targeted at addressing the bigger issues that need improvement. It highlights two main facts that could be to blame for the state of the housing market – that there aren’t enough local authorities planning for the homes needed and that house building is simply too slow.

The government is planning to force developers to increase their building rates by compulsory purchasing their land if they have not started building within two years (rather than three) after receiving planning permission, which should slowly but surely speed up the building process.

The government seem determined to build a stronger, fairer Britain, breaking down barriers to progress by making the big, difficult decisions that are right for Britain in the long term. Housing is increasingly unaffordable, whether you’re buying or renting, ordinary working class people are struggling to get on the property ladder, and that’s something that really needs to change. Plans to move away from home ownership and focus on creating more homes of different tenures – particularly shared ownership and private rent, should move us in the right direction.

People need security to plan for the future and having a home plays a big part in that. We need to build more homes, make sure they’re the type of homes that people want to live in and in the places where people want to live. Building homes that nobody wants to buy is a waste of time and money that could be better used elsewhere.

Councils will now be required to produce a realistic plan for housing demand and review it at least every five years. Currently, 40 per cent of local planning authorities do not have an up-to-date plan that meets the projected growth in the number of households in their area which is just not acceptable.

The government have also committed to the green belt, confirming that they will target abandoned sites in towns, cities and on brownfield land to build homes. Councils and developers will be expected to build more homes in areas where there is a shortage of land and in locations well served by public transport, places where people are more likely to want to live.

As 60 per cent of new homes are built by just 10 companies, which really isn’t a lot, the government will back more small independent builders through the £3 billion Home Building Fund. Since the 1970s, an average of 160,000 homes a year have been built in England, that’s 115,000 less than what is needed now to keep up with the country’s growing population and catch up with years of under supply, so the more companies building, the better in my eyes.

We’ve been promised a lot this year and with the impact of Brexit and the outcome of the Autumn Statement coming into play we’re certainly going to see a lot of changes, and I for one am excited to see it all unfold.

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