Housing White Paper: the industry responds

With the announcement of the Housing White Paper came an expected flood of comments and criticism from across the industry. However while some offered only a qualified welcome, the industry appears to have reacted favourably in general. Common themes included questions around implementation, and many were encouraged by support for the SME sector.

Cautious praise

Justin Gaze, Knight Frank’s joint head of residential development called the White Paper a “comprehensive report.”

He said the release “illustrates an understanding, which has been arguably a little lacking in some recent policy and legislation, that all parts of the development market are interdependent, and that they can, and will, affect each other and ultimately the number of homes being built.”

Gaze welcomed the “positive suggestions within the White Paper. He warned however that: “While we await the outcome of the consultation to the White Paper, it is worth remembering that the development market is just one part of the wider housing market that the Government calls “broken.” The pressure on the delivery of new homes, which make up less than 1 per cent of housing stock annually, is emphasised in a market where the availability of second-hand stock to buy is so constrained, a trend which is exacerbated by the current stamp duty regime.”

David Sheridan, CEO of Keepmoat welcomed the publication, saying he was “pleased to see that the Government recognises the need for modern methods of construction and acknowledges the need for estate regeneration, as well as Help to Buy and institutional investment in new rented homes.”

He said that, for Keepmoat: “The most significant development is that housing associations and local authorities will be empowered to build more homes.”

Sheridan was still apprehensive on likelihood of implementation however, saying: “Going forward, the challenge for the Government is to ensure that real change actually happens.”

Kate Henderson, Town and Country Planning Association CEO lauded the “Government’s pledge to update the New Towns legislation,” commenting that it “marks a huge step forward for the TCPA’s garden cities and new towns campaign.”

She said: “The legislation has a proven track record on delivery, and with the right reform could be a highly effective way of enabling local authorities to deliver well-designed homes and great local services in thriving communities.”

Henderson added: “Changes to the New Towns Act will need to be accompanied by a new approach to Government investment in new development, channeling new and existing funds to support up-front infrastructure and affordable homes.”

Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at RICS recognised that, for the first time this century, “Government has shifted the rhetoric away from home ownership.”

Blackburn applauded what he saw as a “listening Government, with a Prime Minister and Cabinet who are willing to heed the advice of the industry and take the action needed to solve Britain’s housing crisis.”

He noted that “while the focus on Build to Rent looks set to overcome many of the shortfalls of previous administrations, the housing crisis will not be solved by building new homes alone,” instead emphasising that “we must make use of our existing properties.”

Impact on SMEs

Brain Berry, chief executive of the FMB believed that there is “much that is good and sensible in the White Paper,” and suggested the industry “use it as a launchpad for a real step change in delivery.”

He acknowledged the extra resources and powers that Local authorities would receive, but added: “The targets arising from the new housing delivery tests, against which councils will be measured, will not be met with a continued overreliance on large developers and large sites.”

“If a local authority fails to meet its targets,” said Brian, “it could lose control over its own planning policy, and the threat of this should provide the impetus for councils to push more small sites through the system.”

He concluded: “It is in everyone’s interest to see SMEs play a far greater role in housebuilding, and small sites are key to this.”

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation appreciated the White Paper’s recognition that the private sector housebuilding industry is key to “addressing the chronic housing shortage we face and outlines steps to assist it to deliver more homes.”

He advised however that: “Plans to speed up the planning process, bring forward more developable land and make local authorities abide by their responsibilities are key. If we are to build more homes, we need more land coming through the system more quickly. Measures that will allow SME builders to build more homes will increase the capacity of the industry and result in increases in overall supply.”

Amy Nettleton, assistant development director at Aster group said the White Paper “includes some very encouraging proposals,” and that the company is “pleased to see the Government widen out the starter homes policy to include shared ownership,” which she said “should encourage more developers to build more homes for this crucial tenure.”

Amy added to the positive voices on help for SMEs, saying: “Partnership working, including between larger housebuilders and housing associations, and support of smaller developers, are relatively under-utilised ways of boosting volumes – the most important thing given the crisis is in supply rather than on the demand side.”

Greg Hill, deputy managing director at Hill also cheered the White Paper’s likely effect on SMEs, hoping the that release will “empower SMEs to have the confidence to do something different,” as “innovation can be highly challenging in a restricted and confined sector.”

He commented: “SMEs are in the perfect position to step away from convention and embrace new designs and methods of construction due to their flexibility.”

Tassos Kougionis, principal consultant at BSRIA’s Sustainable Construction Group welcomed the “timely and very important ‘radical blueprint for change.’”

Kougionis said the White Paper “heralds a new era for housing, with fresh new opportunities for members and industry alike.”

He also believed that it is was important “to see how SME housebuilders can be supported, and increase in numbers, as a more diverse housing delivery model can enhance the industry’s ability to deliver the required numbers while creating new jobs and opportunities that will help in increasing our workforce.”