Government housing plan would ramp up London numbers

London’s housing targets are set to increase significantly under new Government proposals.

The Communities Secretary has put forward proposals, currently out to consultation, to change the way that housing targets are calculated, aiming to increase the suply of new homes nationally.

Proposals include:

  • a standard method for calculating local authorities’ housing need, which takes in to account affodability – the multiple of average income that is the average house price – and forecast growth in households
  • how neighbourhood planning groups can have greater certainty on the level of housing need to plan for
  • a statement of common ground to improve how local authorities work together to meet housing and other needs across boundaries
  • making the use of viability assessments simpler, quicker and more transparent
  • increased planning application fees in those areas where local planning authorities are delivering the homes their communities need

The new approach was first mooted in the government’s housing white paper earlier this year, and aims to help more homes to be built in areas where housing it least affordable, and subject to greatest demand.

In West London the “indicative assessment of housing need based on proposed formula, 2016 to 2026” for each borough is higher than the current local assessment where it is known, except in Hounslow and Hillingdon.

Brent’s would rise from 1826 to 2855 dwellings per annum, Wandsworth’s from 1238 to 2414, and Hammersmith & Fulham’s from 844 to 980. Hounslow’s would fall from 1556 to 1151, and Hillingdon’s from 3081 to 595, according to the government produced table.

Barnet’s new number would be 4126, and Ealing’s 2432. Slough’s barely moves from 923 to 913.

Across London, where the local need figure is available*, new dwellings per annum increases by 19,000 a year from 34,000, or nearly 60%.

The Communities Secretary also says his proposed new method of calculating housing need will save an estimated £3 million a year spent by Councils nationally on employing consultants to work out how many new homes are needed in their area.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said: “As anyone who has tried to buy or rent a home recently would probably tell you, the housing market in this country is broken. The simple truth is that for far too long we haven’t built enough homes and we don’t build them quickly enough.

“It’s time to fix that. This new approach will cut the unnecessarily complex and lengthy debates that can delay house building. It will make sure we have a clear and realistic assessment of how many new homes are needed, and ensure local communities have a voice in deciding where they go.”

The government has pledged to deliver 1 million homes by the end of 2020, and a further half a million more by the end of 2022.

Housebuilding in England is now at the highest level since 2008 with nearly 190,000 homes delivered, and 304,000 houses given planning permission in the last year.

The government says its proposed system does not set targets, but is “a starting point to ensure that it will be quicker for each local area to produce a realistic plan of its housing need and review it at least every 5 years”.

The proposals also aim to force councils in areas that struggle to meet housing needs due to strong protections for areas like green belt to work more effectively with neighbouring councils to plan across a wider area.

The planned reforms will also mean that councils will have to agree how they will work with their neighbouring areas to plan for homes and supporting infrastructure such as roads and utility services.

A new “statement of common ground” will aim to see better cooperation across council boundaries on planning issues to plan for homes including in new towns or garden villages. Although there is already a duty on councils to plan together on infrastructure and public services, including housing, the government says evidence suggests that in some parts of the country this is not working effectively.

Neighbouring councils will be expected to set out the cross boundary matters within an agreed area, looking at the housing need for the area, distribution of homes and plans to meet any shortfalls. If effective cooperation does not take place, government says it will be prepared to take action to ensure communities and neighbouring councils are not at a disadvantage and make sure the homes their area needs are planned for.

Following changes to the National Planning Policy Framework expected in 2018, councils will then have up to a year to get a statement of common ground in place.

The public consultation launched today will run for 8 weeks until 9 November 2017.

*Current local housing need figures are not available for Barnet, Ealing, Harrow, and Lambeth.

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