By Penny Mordaunt.
House-building policy is not working.
On one hand, millions of people are fed up with sprawling, low-density, greenfield housing estates that overwhelm communities. On the other, millions of young people feel disenfranchised from ever owning their own home.
House building is trapped in a broken pattern – a lazy reliance on greenfield sites without public services, land banking by volume housebuilders who then don’t build, and mandatory targets that councils can’t meet.
I am going to fix this.
I will change the system. I will champion a brownfield building boom, and do more to protect precious greenfields. We will build better, and we will do it using incentives, infrastructure, investment and innovation.
To start with incentives, it’s important to realise that mandatory housing targets for councils don’t work. It is an idea that has been tested to destruction over many years, and it’s time to face the fact that they’ve been a failure everywhere. So we will abolish housebuilding targets and replace them with incentives.
We will extend permitted development rights to allow “build up not out” in urban areas, following local council-produced style codes to match high local standards on style, height and materials. We will help councils with novel ways of new affordable house-building, such as modular homes and councils setting up their own house-building companies.
Scrapping bureaucracy that stops building
Next, we will stop land banking and speed up building for sites that already have planning permissions, especially brownfield sites. There are thousands of unbuilt sites all over the country waiting for construction to start. My priority will be to scrap the bureaucracy that prevents shovels from getting into the ground.
Most importantly, we will make neighbourhood plans easier to create and give them greater legal weight. We need to build, but we can only do it with the support of communities rather than leaving them under siege from developers.
We know communities that engage in local plans end up supporting more building, not less, because they feel empowered.
Next comes infrastructure. We will create a new generation of development corporations – potentially new towns – to drive our brownfield building agenda, tasked with pushing through regeneration, including house building, in inner city and town brownfield sites. They will create jobs and homes – especially for young and first-time buyers – and regenerate city and town centres throughout the UK. We’ll cut red tape to do so.
Sustainable, workable neighbourhoods
This new era will need high environmental and quality of design standards, so we are building green and beautiful too. Those local council-created style codes I mentioned will be crucial for delivering homes and public spaces that people are proud to call home, and that re-invigorate and revive our town centres at the same time.
And we’ll build near public services and public transport to create sustainable, workable neighbourhoods that are communities, not dormitories, too.
All this change should attract huge interest from investors, who will be able to see an industry that’s changing. It will move much faster, with many more buildable sites in a wider variety of sizes and styles, and many more nimble new firms challenging today’s large and cosy incumbents with new approaches, construction techniques and materials than ever before.
The new permitted development rights will increase the value of almost every urban property overnight, and all the other measures should usher in a new era of easily-affordable homes for people to rent or buy, in existing communities, near public and local services, in beautiful, local styles.
This vision will transform Britain’s housing from one of our nation’s biggest headaches into our biggest source of pride.