On the first day back at work after the festive break, Prime Minister David Cameron announced another new scheme to get Britain building. Smaller developers will be able to buy sites in England with planning permission in place – with 40 per cent of the new-builds to be “starter homes” aimed at first-time buyers.
Direct commissioning has not been used on this scale since Margaret Thatcher started the regeneration of Docklands, the benefit is that it allows the government to assume responsibility for developing land, instead of large building firms.
Prime Minister David Cameron said it was a “huge shift in government policy. Nothing like this has been done on this scale in three decades, government rolling its sleeves up and getting homes built.”
The Labour party said he was using “rhetoric to hide his failure on new homes.” Shadow Housing Minister John Healey said the announcement did not promise new investment or affordable homes beyond those already announced.
Adding to Mr Cameron’s energy rush, Communities Secretary Greg Clark (left) said that the government was not only rolling up its sleeves but was “pulling out all the stops to get the country building.”
“We know that consistently 90% of people aspire to own their own home, and for many years now home ownership has been in decline,” he said.
He added that the eight biggest building firms accounted for 50% of the house-building market, and there was a need to involve smaller and medium-sized companies.
Homes for all
Downing Street said the move marked a “radical new policy shift”, with up to 13,000 homes set to be built on five publicly-owned sites in 2016 – with up to 40% being affordable “starter” homes.
The government wants to build 200,000 starter homes – to be offered to first-time buyers under 40 at a minimum 20% discount price – by 2020.
The discounts apply to properties worth up to £250,000 outside London, or £450,000 in the capital.
Where will they build?
A pilot for the scheme will start on five sites:
LONDON: Brownfield land at Old Oak Common, in north-west London
KENT: Former Connaught Barracks, in Dover
CAMBRIDGESHIRE: Ex-MoD land at Northstowe, in Cambridgeshire
SUSSEX: Former hospital site at Lower Graylingwell, in Chichester
HAMPSHIRE: MoD site at Daedelus Waterfront, in Gosport
Richard Donnell, Director of Research at Hometrack said, “One of the greatest challenges to growing housing supply has been the loss of capacity from small builders whose numbers have halved between 2007 and 2013. Only 2,710 are estimated to have been building in the last year. The barriers to small builders developing homes have risen with planning and finance risks limiting access to the market.”
“The Government needs as many types of builder as possible to meet its target to grow supply. While the number of homes announced today is relatively small it sends the message that smaller builders have an important role to play if we are to grow housing volumes.”
Rhian Kelly, CBI Business Environment Director, said, “This announcement by the Prime Minister, if successfully rolled out across the country, should be a real spur to our ability to build more homes.
“To move us closer to the 240,000 homes we need built each year, the Government must ensure we have a healthy and vibrant housing market, with a mix of tenures, including the Private Rental Sector, affordable and social homes to rent and buy, and home ownership.”