The Housing White Paper
The Housing White Paper represents the first major Housing publication since the DCLG published its 2011 Housing Strategy.
Like the 2011 Housing Strategy the White Paper contains a similar central thread, namely to get England building more and revisits some of its predecessors topics such as Planning Reform.
However unlike its forbearer the tone towards the Sector couldn't be more different. There is no chapter targeted at Social and affordable housing reform or shocks like the creation of Affordable Rent.
Indeed the White Paper begins with praise for the Sector with quotes, which could equally be found in a National Housing Federation Press Release:
"Housing Associations have been doing well – they're behind around a third of all new housing completed over the past five years"
"Investment in affordable housing is a tried and tested way of getting new homes built and is normally more resilient than market house-building to changing housing market conditions. 193,000 homes were built under our Affordable Housing Programme – exceeding its target by 23,000. Building new affordable homes also helps kick start other house-building, as it can help make sites viable and bring in investment".
The document makes it very clear that Housing Associations are part of the solution to the Housing Crisis being specifically mentioned within the papers key four step proposals and they will be provided government support.
However this does come with a warning "that in return for grant flexibility [the government] expect [Housing Associations] to build significantly more affordable homes over the current Parliament"
Additionally there are further warnings for non-developing Housing Associations who the government "expect to make the best use of development capacity they help meet local housing need"
Naturally the White Paper continues with the predictable efficiency and merger paragraphs, but there will be no withdrawal of the 1% rent reductions which will remain in place until 2020.
- On the positive the government has confirmed that it will set out a revised rent policy post 2020 to provide confidence to the Sector and its investors.
- There will definition of Affordable Housing will be widened to include Starter Homes.
- A new product "Affordable private rent" will be created, which appears to mirror Affordable Rent, save that the 80% rent cap will not be inclusive of service charge. This is notable as the product is designed to be offered by Build to Rent developers directly avoiding the need for Housing Association involvement.
- The government are consulting on whether there should be a blanket policy of 10% of all homes on developments (of 10 or more units or 0.5ha) for affordable home ownership products. This would include Starter Homes and Shared Ownership.
- The government are reviewing Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 Agreement contributions. An announcement will be made in the Autumn Budget 2017.
- The government has watered down Starter Homes. There is no mention of the original 200,000 target and they will be restricted to a 15 year repayment discount. Additionally the financial qualifying criteria will be identical to shared ownership so will be in direct completion with it.