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Extra funding announced

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has announced a new partnership with Barclays Bank to provide small and medium size developers with finance to help speed up the delivery of new homes.

The fund, which totals £1 billion, will be managed by Homes England. It comes on top of the £1.9 billion re-affirmed this September for the Land Assembly Fund and the Small Sites Fund, all of which are designed to release more sites for delivery and allow a wider variety of players in the housing market to access funding.

The government hopes the new finance streams will be used to acquire land needing work to make it ready for taking to market and making development prospects less risky, while public sector landowners will be able to access funding to speed up getting the right infrastructure in place to support home building on stalled sites.

The Land Assembly Fund will be managed by Homes England outside of the capital and by the Greater London Authority within London.

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Industry response to Land Value Capture inquiry

The Land Promoters and Developers Federation (LPDF) has given its response to the government’s Land Value Capture inquiry.

The federation has largely welcomed the government’s evidence with its focus on making sure the current system is working well to deliver land and ensure available and development comes forward.

It’s important, the inquiry heard, for supporting infrastructure work to be completed when sites for housing development come forward so the local community has appropriate buy-in and can see the local benefits.

The Fed recognises that there is a job to do with regards to improving the clarity around the whole process, and this is definitely something the Fed supports.  It believes that openness and transparency from the beginning would be a welcome change to the way in which the process currently operates.



New National Planning Policy Framework published

The latest LPDF update looks at changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the proposals published by MHCLG during the summer looks at developing new high quality design guidelines for the development industries to adhere to.

Some planning experts have described the overarching emphasis of the new NPPF guidelines as ‘pro-growth, with caveats’. At the same time, the guidelines themselves talk about ‘building attractive and better-designed homes in areas where they are needed,’ so there is a strong focus on attempting to meet demand.

Engagement is a strong line taken throughout the new guidelines, and conducting best-in-class stakeholder events and communication is already a high priority amongst developers and land owners. The government is underlining this with precise guidelines and will undoubtedly look to the industry to continue to do good work in this arena.

Changes in Green Belt are discussed, with the government saying boundaries can only be altered in exceptional circumstances and after ‘fully evidenced and justified’ reports – seemingly a toughening of existing rules.

The way the government calculates housing need and housing demand is also being amended to create a formula that takes account of five year supply calculations. This has already met resistance from the LGA and CPRE who perceive the changes as prejudicing local plans against national targets.

There are further attempts to address the requirements of first time buyers, while affordable housing gets a push towards affordable home ownership including starter homes, rent to buy, discounted market sales and ‘other affordable routes to home ownership’.

Overall, the changes to the NPPF will again need time to settle down and for us to keep a careful eye on the results that follow.



ONS report on the changing UK population

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has published a report, Living longer - how our population is changing and why it matters, that looks at the issues around the future of the UK’s growing population which will top 70 million by 2030.

The report pays particular attention to the effects of an aging population on housing, the economy, health, social care and other public services.

Latest projections show that in 20 years’ time there is likely to be an additional 8.6 million people aged 65 years and over – a population roughly the size of London. Over 85s will make up 7% of the population, up from 2% at the moment. As mortality rates fall, 50% of all females and 44% of males will be living to 100 by 2066, the report predicts. 

The report is full of facts and contributes to the on-going debate around housing demand and supply in the UK, especially around types of housing required to meet the needs of an aging population.

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New Garden Communities Prospectus

A new prospectus for the Garden Communities initiative has been launched by the government with successful garden community sites due to be announced later in the year.

Winning bidders will receive advice and potential grant funding to bring their plans forward. MHCLG says its garden communities programme already has the potential to deliver over 200,000 new homes by 2050.

Up to 1 million new homes could also be built in the Oxford – Milton Keynes – Cambridge corridor, transforming the urban mix of the northern Home Counties.

More sustainable and deliverable garden communities are believed to be the winners in the government’s thinking over the options for meeting housing demand in southern England.

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Concerns at London Plan

The Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, has written to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan expressing concerns about the London Plan meeting the capital’s housing needs.

Brokenshire has asked for a revised London plan to be brought forward as quickly as possible and for it to reflect the real housing needs of the capital.

He welcomed Khan’s proposed increase in the housing target from 42,000 to 65,000 homes a year as a helpful first step, but is clearly pressing for more as well as a review of inconsistent policies for London against national policy, such as in regards to gardens and car parking.



Midlands lead on Right to Buy pilot

Birmingham-based Family Optima housing association has launched the Voluntary Right to Buy pilot scheme first proposed by the government in 2015.

Housing associations and the National Housing Federation are working to extend the Right to Buy programme to their tenants by way of voluntary agreement instead of legislation. The pilot at Family Optima will run for two years and will test two new proposals around one for one replacement and portability.

It will offer existing tenants the option of applying to buy their property with prices and options based on market information, the length of tenancy and tenancy record.

The government is providing £200 million in funding for the Voluntary Right to Buy pilot, with places allocated by ballot to ensure fairness to applicants. The Family Optima pilot will feed into the on-going development of the policy nationally.