First details of the long-awaited Housing White Paper have emerged in stories in newspapers frequently used by government to float ideas.
The Sun and the Financial Times, in particular, have run informed pieces suggesting the White Paper - originally planned for around the time of the Conservative party conference in October, then postponed until November, December and finally January - will be issued early next week and will have these key areas:
- more ambitious house-building targets of 300,000 a year, required if the government is to get close to its oft-stated goal of building one million new homes by 2020;
- reserve key sites for modular-built homes which can be constructed more rapidly;
- changing Right To Light legislation: the FT suggests there will be a relaxation in rules on the height of buildings in urban areas, allowing the extension of existing buildings as well as ‘medium height’ new ones, and watering down existing Right To Light guidelines;
- a bid to end excessive land-banking by developers, with the threat of withdrawing planning consent or an ultimate sanction of compulsory purchase of unused land;
- clamping down on slow-moving councils; in the past some English authorities have been slow to identify potential housing sites, and the Sun suggests stricter ‘quotas’ for new homes could be imposed on those councils that drag their feet, while the FT says financial penalties (like losing their New Homes Bonuses) could be introduced;
- target inner-city sites and railway station hubs for development, possibly building residential above car parks as mooted by some developers and consultants;
- encourage more small and medium-sized building firms, a popular goal amongst successive governments who have, at least until now, made little progress in improving access to funding which is key for SME firms.