The welcome launch of the Housing White Paper

8 Feb 2017

Policy area: Residential

Following the launch of the much anticipated Housing White Paper, Will Bushby summarises the key points in the paper and what they will mean for build to rent.

I would like to say it was our incredible foresight that led to our Residential Conference and Dinner being held on the same day as the launch of the Housing White Paper, but that would be an “alternative fact”. The most eagerly awaited document to have come out of DCLG in years was warmly received by the industry. We certainly welcome many of the proposals, especially those regarding the build to rent sector, on which government has taken on board a lot of our representations.

Build to rent

Build to rent has finally come of age. The white paper and follow-up consultation go to extraordinary lengths to stress that we have entered a multi-tenure era in government’s approach to policy making. DCLG has put forward several proposals that aim to boost the industry and help tackle the issue of viability. These include:

  • Changes to the National Planning Policy Framework so authorities know they should plan proactively for build to rent where there is a need, and to make it easier for developers to offer affordable private rental homes instead of other types of affordable housing.
  • Ensure that ‘family-friendly’ tenancies of three years or more are available on schemes that benefit from the proposed changes. (We will be making an announcement on this in the coming weeks).
  • Discounted Market Rent (DMR) has had a makeover and will now be referred to as “Affordable Private Rent” (APR) and will be the affordable option for build to rent.
  • Government has also acknowledged our call for flexibility on space standards and will be issuing a consultation shortly.

Although there is still quite a way to go to get local authorities and planners to understand the build to rent models, the proposed changes are a promising start.

Starter Homes

The spectre of Starter Homes has been lurking over the industry ever since the policy was first announced in 2014, and the uncertainty over their future has loomed large since the new government was installed in July. The White Paper has finally provided some clarity, confirming that the Government has dropped its manifesto pledge and Starter Homes will now be delivered as part a mixed package of affordable housing.

As APR will be the affordable option for build to rent developments, there will be no requirement for developers to provide Starter Homes onsite or even an offsite commuted sum – a big win for the industry.

CIL

Rumours have also been flying around regarding the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). The white paper announced (if one can call it an announcement) that the government is still examining the options for reforming developer contributions and will respond to the independent CIL review in the Autumn Budget.

This blog would become very dull if I was to list every single proposal within the paper, so I won’t. What I will say is that the BPF warmly welcomes the white paper, but the hard work doesn’t end here. Over the next few weeks and months the Residential Board, Planning Committee and other interested members will be pouring over the consultations and providing thorough responses to make sure the proposals are implemented in the best way possible to ensure that the build to rent industry can deliver its maximum contribution to delivering much-needed new homes, and that the system works as smoothly as possible for all sectors. Our comprehensive research into the build to rent sector’s projected growth, also launched yesterday, shows potential for the build to rent sector to provide 240,000 additional homes by 2030 if supported by the right policy environment.

It is going to be an extremely hard slog to meet the government’s target of building one million homes by 2020. Let’s hope that by the next time we meet for next year’s conference we will be celebrating the positive impact the white paper had in helping propel the industry forward to create the good quality homes and places the UK desperately needs.