Affordable Housing: A Focus on Construction

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The Homeowners Survey of 2018 states that people living in the UK today are more concerned about property prices and availability of homes than they were 5 years ago. With home quality also a concern  these findings equate to an overall lack of confidence in the housing sector

Planning Permission

In a bid to tackle the housing crisis and to assist first time buyers  in their home purchase, the Government has taken various steps to support the Construction Industry in building more affordable and better quality homes. Addressing planning permission is a vital step towards this. More planning applications are being accepted than ever before but long waiting times for paperwork processing continue to hold up progress.

Permission in Principle is a key reform in the Housing and Planning Act of 2016, a reform which supports the concept that housing developers will have automatic consent to build on sites where the principal of development has been secured. The rationale behind the reform was to reduce red tape in order to make the planning process more efficient. However, a new study commissioned by the Royal Town Planning Institute shows that planners, developers and other construction experts believe that the reform is unlikely to have the desired effect. While they acknowledge that Permission in Principle may make it easier for small scale developers to get finance, they were concerned that opposition to proposed sites could result in land speculation and raised prices.

Providing Financial Support for Urban Regeneration

Urban regeneration schemes transform neglected sites into affordable and desirable housing. A good example of the scheme in action is the development of the retired Johnnie Walker bottling plant in Kilmarnock. Low-carbon housing featuring a geothermal heating system which provides low cost energy, is being constructed on the site. Scottish Power has committed to sponsoring the project up to a value of £5 million in addition to the £5.3 million already allocated by the Scottish Government.

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)Updates

Presently 92% of councils in England are failing to meet the need for affordable housing in their area.  As reported in the online Planning and Construction News, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) and the Association for Public Service Excellence are of the opinion that the mandatory viability test impacts on their ability to produce affordable housing. Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the TCPA said that viability testing, ‘places the needs of developers and landlords’ above that of the general public and, ‘has spawned a wasteful and costly industry[…] which has the net effect of dramatically reducing the delivery of affordable housing’. It is hoped that the updated NPPF will address this issue.

Good Quality Homes

With an eye to Scandinavia where quality homes are constructed with integral good design, the Government will encourage developers to use better quality designs with the aim of encouraging community development and purchase by first-time buyers. They also plan to support homebuyers if their homes are not satisfactorily constructed. Local authorities will be able to consider whether the new designs meet the needs of the local community. Actions to boost innovation in homes included a £1 billion investment through the Home Building fund, which supports modern approaches to home design and construction.

Hopefully direct and local Government action, together with reforms to planning and regulation will allow the housing market to work more efficiently,  making more homes more affordable for more people.

Simon Nosworth  affordable housing

Head of residential property

Osbornes Law

www.osborneslaw.com

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