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Housing, General Elections and White Papers

Steve Cole, London First Programme Director, Housing 

Steve Cole

Launched with a bang in spring, the government’s housing white paper consultation closed on 2 May, overshadowed somewhat beneath the clamour of the general election. Of course, this doesn’t mean the housing crisis is solved.

So what does the election mean for the Housing White Paper and housing in general?

Firstly, the White Paper consultation, which we have submitted our response to, still stands. The only technical issue is that it cannot become law until the new administration takes office.

Post 8 June, the new government should continue the direction of travel set out in the Housing White Paper. This means finally recognising the task ahead in solving such a complex housing crisis, and that home ownership silver bullets like starter homes will only ever be a small part of the solution.

The White Paper does propose positive steps for;

  • delivering additional homes through more intensive use of public land
  • revising the definitions of affordable housing
  • reducing the requirements for starter homes (which would always be of little benefit to London)
  • improving the market for Build to Rent and;
  • allowing local authorities to consider wider factors than financial return when releasing public land.

The government’s widely trailed proposals to crack down on what they perceive to be the scourge of land banking, and increase development on the green belt did not come to pass.

However, they did propose a number of changes to the planning process including; reducing the time developers have to implement planning permission from three years to two, and taking a developer’s track record on housing delivery into account when granting permissions.

While the government should be commended for trying to increase the speed and rate of housebuilding, we’ve flagged a number of issues.

It’s often unrealistic to implement planning permissions within two years, once you consider working through planning, dealing with unexpected issues on sites and engaging with local residents.

In addition, the proposal to take a developer’s track record into account during the planning process, does not address the root problems of the planning system and its inherent failures (an issue for another blog).

Perhaps most importantly for our capital, many of the government’s proposals will either already be in place, due to the Mayor of London’s devolved authority, or will simply not have the same effect in London, where the housing crisis is so acute.

We’ve called for the government to think separately about proposals for tackling London’s housing crisis. This should be headlined by a coordinated and sustained programme of public land assembly in London.

The wheels have finally been set in motion, for a positive direction of travel on housing. Post 8 June, London First will continue to push for delivery on this.

You can read our full response to the Housing White Paper, as well as our response to the related Build to Rent Consultation online.



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