A new housing policy for England
We believe that any coherent housing policy should be based on three key principles:
Key Principle One : Helping People With Housing Needs
It is Government’s responsibility to provide true social housing.
The full involvement of Government (both local and central) is urgently needed to deal with the need for real social housing. As grant evaporates, registered providers are left wondering how desperate housing needs can be met. It’s up to Government to address the issues responsibly. Having a housing policy which majors on home ownership is based on the peculiarly English concept of home as pension pot. It’s high time we started to think differently.
We challenge the extension of the right to buy to housing association tenants because it is a policy that fails to accord with this simple principle. Housing association tenants are, by definition, not in housing need and yet the Government is prepared to expend millions of pounds to improve their position. We see the ‘voluntary agreement’ reached in 2015 between the National Housing Federation and Government as a threat to the ability of housing associations to deliver the numbers of affordable homes we need.
Key Principle Two : Promoting Affordable Housing Of All Tenures
The Government should review the workings of the section 106 framework and consider reforms wherever inefficiencies hamper delivery of housing.
We seek to change the system by which the private sector (in particular the big housebuilders) help provide affordable housing. At the moment housebuilders contribute substantially towards the cost of affordable housing; but there are difficulties in the way this contribution is assessed and collected, often leading to disputes with the planners and delays in starting new schemes.
We propose a brand new framework for Affordable Housing Contributions. Under the these provisions, developers will provide affordable houses at a statutory discount and pay an affordable housing tax on the profits of individual housing schemes, the proceeds from which will be ploughed back to provide more local affordable housing. The affordable housing contribution will also be levied on commercial developments. As a result of these reforms alone, we estimate that it will be possible to build 25% more affordable homes every year. Details of our proposals are published on the Reform of section 106 pages. Unfortunately, Government did not take the opportunity of the Housing and Planning Act to introduce fundamental revisions to the section 106 framework. The 2016 is largely redundant and should be repealed.
Simplification of tenures used for affordable home ownership should be a priority. Conventional shared ownership is complex, difficult to finance and hard to resell. In March 2015, DCLG stated that shared ownership would be reviewed, but no such review has materialised.
Graduated Ownership and community-led schemes should be promoted by Government, registered providers, housing authorities and private developers. More lenders (to individual buyers) should be encouraged to offer mortgages on these schemes on normal terms.
Delivery of affordable housing can be speeded up through the existing section 106 framework. Our proposals to achieve this on the basis of current planning policy guidance are set out on the Fast-tracking section 106 pages.
Key Principle Three : Keeping An Eye On Housing Over Time
The Government should continuously review all the factors that influence the housing market and the supply of housing.
We have seen from experience that reviews commissioned in the past give a snapshot of what’s wrong, but none has so far come up with the big answers that are needed to give people the homes they deserve at prices and rents they can afford.
We propose a continuous review in which the private sector will fully engage with the public and third sectors. The review will look at ways in which the planning system can be improved and the housing supply of all tenures can be increased. Online discussions will be held with interested groups and the review will publish its findings every six months.
Director, Future Housing Review