With a Brexit deal agreed and new coronavirus restrictions announced for much of the country, strangely, housebuilding has not been dominating the headlines over the Christmas holidays.
However, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has shared the government’s plans to boost housebuilding across England, with a focus on regenerating cities, especially in the north and the Midlands.
The government will encourage more housebuilding in the 20 largest cities and urban centres in England. Their goal is to regenerate these cities and bring housing to areas where demand is outstripping supply.
Seeking to deliver 300,000 new homes by the mid-2020s
Following a consultation launched in the summer that sought views from planners, councils and the wider public, the government has announced its plan for enabling the delivery of more homes across England.
A housing need formula is currently used to provide a starting point in the process of local planning for new homes. An updated method will now be introduced to help councils to enable the delivery of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, while prioritising brownfield sites and urban areas.
Prioritising family homes
Under the proposals, cities will be encouraged to plan for more family homes – which are the right size and type for families to live in – and to make the most of vacant buildings and underused land to protect green spaces. The plans will encourage more homes to be built in England’s 20 largest cities and urban centres, boosting local economies by supporting jobs in the building sector, and revitalising high streets with the footfall new residents bring.
The government also intends to revise the so-called ‘80/20 rule’ which guides how much funding is available to local areas to help build homes. This will establish a new principle to ensure funding is not just concentrated in London and the South East.
Regenerating towns and cities
Robert Jenrick said:
“This government wants to build more homes as a matter of social justice, for intergenerational fairness and to create jobs for working people. We are reforming our planning system to ensure it is simpler and more certain without compromising standards of design, quality and environmental protection.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated and magnified patterns that already existed, creating a generational opportunity for the repurposing of offices and retail as housing and for urban renewal. We want this to be an opportunity for a new trajectory for our major cities – one which helps to forge a new country beyond Covid – which is more beautiful, healthier, more prosperous, more neighbourly and where more people have the security and dignity of a home of their own.
“A new expert Urban Centre Recovery Task Force has been set up to advise on the development and regeneration of our great town and city centres. The Task Force includes Peter Freeman, the visionary behind the redevelopment of Kings’ Cross and new Chair of Homes England.”
The government will be allocating more than £67 million in funding to the West Midlands and Greater Manchester Mayoral Combined Authorities to help them deliver new homes on brownfield land, as well as confirming an additional £100 million of funding for brownfield development.
Advantage’s view: Focusing on housebuilding in urban centres, rather than in areas of the South East that have traditionally been considered Conservative heartlands, as originally suggested in the summer, may be less controversial in the short-term. However, questions are already being raised about whether there will be sufficient space within town centres and cities to deliver the promised 300,000 new homes. In their award-winning blog, Lichfields suggest that it seems unlikely there is sufficient evidence to conclude that these 20 cities will almost double the rate of housebuilding from 67.3K to the new ‘need’ of 131.5K. They believe that this takes us inexorably to the use of green belt land on the borders of those towns and cities and the need to cooperate with neighbouring cities in order to meet targets. Perhaps, then, rather than representing a major departure in terms of planning, this month’s announcement simply represents a change of emphasis, placing a greater focus on urban centres for housebuilding, but ultimately requiring a broader approach in order to prove successful.
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