In February 2017, the government published a white paper pledging to build more affordable housing in England—what exactly does it entail?
New reforms published in the government’s white paper on housing are aiming to make the property market work for everyone, including individuals on lower incomes, renters and disabled and older people. According to the government, 250,000 homes are needed each year to keep on pace with demand—these newly published plans include giving councils the power to pressure developers into building on land they own and making rents more family-friendly with longer tenancies offered around the country to create an affordable housing solution for more people.
Local areas will need to produce a plan of their current and future housing pressures and review it every five years. This is an important move as the government predicts that as many as 40 percent of planning authorities currently do not have updated plans that complement the estimated growth in households—this will ensure homes are built in areas where people want to live and work. Councils will also be expected to avoid building properties at low density, instead building upwards and in locations with good transport links. In addition to this, local authorities will be able to speed up the house building process by issuing completion notices.
Getting on the property ladder is now more challenging than ever as a house can cost up to eight times our average earnings. Furthermore, the number of people living in the private rental sector has doubled since 2000 and over 2.2 million households spend one third of their income on housing—making saving up for a deposit almost impossible. According to the white paper, the same 10 companies build 60 percent of new homes: there is a real need to diversify the market. The £3 billion Home Building Fund will help provide loans for SME and custom builders—creating new jobs in the meantime.
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In April 2017, the government will introduce the Lifetime ISA giving young individuals a 25 percent bonus on up to £4,000 savings a year which they can put towards buying a new home or withdraw once they turn 60. Starter homes will be targeted at first-time buyers and through the National Planning Policy Framework, these properties will be available to those who need them most—individuals with an income of less than £90,000 in the capital and £80,000 everywhere else in the country.
An extra £1.4 billion was announced for the Affordable Homes Programme to build around 225,000 affordable houses in this parliament. This plan includes rent-to-buy homes and shared ownership homes—the hope is that these will allow families to find a property that is right for them.
In this white paper the government has also recognised that in order to fix the housing market, the cost of renting must be dealt with. This includes allowing planning for more long-term build-to-rent homes, allowing developers to offer affordable housing rents alongside housing and ensuring long-term tenancies in private rented schemes.
In order to tackle empty homes, local authorities will be able to earn the same financial reward for bringing an empty home back into use as they would by building a new one. In addition to this, they will have the power to impose a council tax premium of up to 50 percent on top of the existing bill on properties that have been empty for more than two years.
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