Yesterday the legislative plans for the year ahead have been unveiled in the Queen’s Speech to Parliament. It set out the priorities of David Cameron’s majority Conservative Government. We have below set out what we believe will impact our clients and our industry over the next five years.
The Housing Bill
The Housing Bill will help the Government to deliver on the ambition to help the working population, being designed to ‘offer over a million people a helping hand onto the housing ladder’.
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:
‘‘Schemes like Help to Buy are helping thousands of people who want to buy their own home – but we need to go further. Anyone who works hard and wants to get on the property ladder should have the opportunity to do so, which is why tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech will include measures so a million more people have the chance to do exactly that. And with housing starts at their highest since 2007, we’ll take steps that will get workers on sites and keep the country building.”
Communities Secretary Greg Clark said:
“Our Housing Bill will offer over a million people a helping hand onto the housing ladder. That is what a government for working people is about – making sure people have the security they need to build a brighter future for them and their families.”
The Bill include the following measures:
- Extend the Right to Buy scheme; thus offering England’s 1.3 million housing association tenants the opportunity to buy their home at a discount, worth up to £102,700 in London and up to £77,000 in the rest of England.
- Dispose of High Value Vacant Council houses; Councils will also be required to sell about 5% of their remaining council stock. These most-valuable properties will only be sold once they became vacant, and once sold, councils will be required to build a more affordable, cheaper property on a one-for-one basis.
- Right to Build – requiring local planning authorities to support custom and self-builders registered in their area in identifying suitable plots of land to build or commission their own home.
- 200,000 Starter Homes – to be available at a 20% discount to first-time buyers under 40.
- New Brownfield Land Register – to help achieve the target of getting Local Development Orders in place on 90% of suitable brownfield land built on by 2020. This is intended to fast track construction of new homes.
- Simplified Neighbourhood Planning; to support communities that seek to meet local housing and other development needs through neighbourhood planning.
The NPPF remains unchanged so the question is if the NPPF with the focus on localism ever can deliver the homes needed and increase affordability. It seems schemes like the Right to Buy only targets certain beneficiary groups so the challenge seems still to be to reach a wider catchment.
Paving the way for power to the north – the “Northern Powerhouse”
In the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill it paves the way for powers over housing, transport, planning and policing to be devolved to England’s Cities. The Queen said: “To bring different parts of our country together, my government will work to bring about a balanced economic recovery. Legislation will be introduced to provide for the devolution of powers to cities with elected metro mayors, helping to build a Northern Powerhouse.”
The HS2 bill confirms that the government is pressing ahead with legislation that will eventually enable work to start on the £50bn HS2 high-speed rail link. Legislation which will give the government the legal powers to construct and operate the London to Birmingham first phase of HS2 is going through Parliament. If all goes as planned it could have a finishing date of 2026
Both bills are part of Chancellor George Osborne’s efforts to build a “Northern Powerhouse”. Too much emphasis is perceived being put on the Southeast and London. The question is if the improved transport links that the HS2 will bring, combined with the increased local decision making, will result in further investment up north? If so, will the investment it attracts include housing? We will have to wait and see.