The government’s blizzard of New Year announcements about new homes has received a distinctly frosty welcome from many within the property industry.
Over the past 72 hours the government has revealed 30 locations which will receive money from the long-announced £1.2 billion Starter Homes Land Fund - these are where homes will be built exclusively for purchased aged between 23 and 40 who will receive a discount of at least 20 per cent below market value.
In addition the government has named England's first garden villages on 14 sites from Cornwall to Cumbria, to provide up to 48,000 homes. The government has also said three new garden towns would be built at Aylesbury, Taunton and Harlow & Gilston, in addition to seven already announced.
However, widespread scepticism greeted the announcements, which have echoes of previous schemes revealed by the David Cameron-led government in recent years.
In a tweet addressed to housing minister Gavin Barwell and referring to a promised White Paper on housing issues expected later this month, Adam Challis - the head of residential research at JLL - said: “Garden Cities and Starter Homes. Wow. Government White Paper needs new ideas rather than old, hitherto-unworkable ones.”
And a statement from Mark Hayward, managing director of the National Association of Estate Agents, reflected similar concern.
“The dream of home ownership is too far out of reach for thousands of aspiring first time buyers and the building of new homes on disused brownfield sites, as well as a 20 per cent discount for buyers aged 23 to 40 will go some way to bridging this gap. News that the government will deliver 14 new ‘garden’ towns and villages outside of existing settlements will also relieve some of the pressure on supply and demand, which should in turn act as a catalyst to help FTBs fulfil their dreams of homeownership” he says.
But he continues: “However, we must not throw caution to the wind. The Government has made promise after promise and pledge after pledge to help FTBs get on to the housing ladder, but until we see these houses built we won’t hold our breath.”
Christine Whitehead, emeritus professor in housing economics at the London School of Economics, told BBC Radio that the gov ernment timescale is “much too short, it's not that easy to build on land that quickly, and we are anyway short on skills".
Even with government help, she says many prospective first time buyers would not earn enough to benefit from the proposed new properties. "[They] often haven't got very strong jobs, they're insecure about their future, they're paying high prices in the rental market and therefore can't afford the deposit."
Meanwhile this morning the government has made its third announcement since the New Year about attempting to increase house building.
A new government-backed pilot scheme has been launched to unblock infrastructure hold ups that are delaying the building of new homes. It has been set up by The Housing & Finance Institute, which last year published a report which highlighted how failing water companies are severely infringing the ability of private developers to build more homes.
The pilot scheme is being carried out in the south east of England with the help of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, the Home Builders Federation, Laing O’Rourke, Anglian Water, Kent County Council, Essex County Council, KeepMoat, and the Department for Communities and Local Government.
It will seek to identify, assess and then unblock infrastructure problems in order to speed up house building.