Blog: 9 February 2017The White Paper and Affordable Homes

Gemma Johnson

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Gemma Johnson

Planning Associate

Birmingham office

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The White Paper outlines a commitment to investing in affordable housing and ensuring that housing is affordable for local people through a variety of mechanisms, including an extension of the Affordable Homes programme, support to Housing Associations and Local Authorities to enable them to build more and changing the way the Homes and Communities Agency operates (including a name change!). However, the most interesting points for me are the Build to Rent market and starter homes initiative.

Build to Rent

The White Paper promotes the provision of good quality privately rented homes. It is clear that the Government wants to attract major investment into large scale housing which is purpose built for market rent, due to the considerations of speed, housing supply and increase of choice (e.g. family homes) and standards.

This push for the private rented sector appears to indicate a change in Government priority from promoting homeownership, to promoting housebuilding in general. Whilst the private rent sector will have an important part to play in ensuring the availability of suitable housing for those who have been priced out of home ownership, the White Paper suggests standalone schemes, as opposed to any drive for integration within wider development proposals, to ensure the development of inclusive and sustainable communities.

The Government is however consulting separately on wider measures to support Build to Rent developments, including changes to the NPPF to encourage Local Planning Authorities to plan for the private rented sector and to make it easier for Build to Rent developers to offer affordable private rented homes instead of other types of affordable housing.

Starter Homes

The White Paper confirms a commitment to starter homes, to be targeted at first time buyers and changes to the NPPF will support this.

Following concerns regarding the Government’s original plans for a mandatory requirement of 20% starter homes on all developments over a certain size and the impact that this may have on other affordable tenures, the White Paper sets out a different approach to delivering starter homes. Instead of a mandatory starter home requirement, it is proposed to amend the NPPF to require housing sites to deliver at least 10% affordable home ownership units (Annex confirms this will be on sites of 10 or more dwellings or in excess of 0.5 hectares). It will be for Local Authorities and developers to agree an appropriate mix of tenures, that could include starter homes or other affordable home ownership tenures.

Amendments are also proposed to the NPPF to allow more brownfield land to be released for developments with a higher proportion of starter homes. This includes development on brownfield land in the Green Belt where there is no substantial harm to the openness of the Green Belt.

It is positive to see that the Government have listened to the industry and not made the inclusion of starter homes mandatory on development sites at the expense of other affordable tenures. Again highlighting the apparent shift in priority from building homes to boost ownership, to boosting housebuilding in general. It therefore remains to be seen as to how starter homes will fair with developers, amidst the other tenures within the ‘affordable home ownership units’ category.

Finally, it is confirmed that the proposals in December 2015, to expand the NPPF definition of affordable housing to include a range of low cost housing opportunities including starter homes and discounted market rent, will be carried forward (subject to some modifications). This is a positive step forward which recognises the important contribution other tenures have to play in providing everyone with access to a suitable and affordable property that meets their individual needs.

Affordable Homes Programme

  • The Autumn Statement announced the Government’s Affordable Homes Programme, which will assist families to find a home that is right for them.
  • The 2016-21 Affordable Homes Programme was designed to focus on delivering shared ownership properties. The White Paper however, confirms that the programme has been extended to cover a range of homes including for affordable rent and Rent to Buy properties.

Other Housing Initiatives

  • Deposit Schemes – These will continue with the introduction of the Lifetime ISA in April 2017. Savings can be put towards the purchase of a first home, or withdrawn at the age of 60.
  • Help to Buy – This has been extended to 2021 to support house buyers.
  • Right to Buy – The Regional pilot for Housing Associations will be expanded to allow HA tenants to purchase their rented properties.

Affordable Housing Definitions

It is confirmed that the proposals in December 2015 to expand the NPPF definition of affordable housing to include a range of low cost housing opportunities, including starter homes, will be carried forward (subject to some modifications

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Housing White Paper, Affordable Housing, Starter Homes