Government scraps housebuilding targets

Government scraps housebuilding targets

Pressure from over 100 Tory MPs forces the government to alter its manifesto pledge

The government has backed down from its pledge to maintain housebuilding targets due to pressures from backbench Tory MPs.

As part of a manifesto pledge the Conservatives aimed to build 300,000 homes per year by the middle of the decade. This was done to address the housing shortages felt across the UK. However, critics argued this would place greater pressure on local authorities to meet quotas to meet these figures.

This decision shortly after Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, reaffirmed his commitment to the housing targets last week. Gove was forced renege on this issue and on Monday sent a letter to MPs which said, “there is no truly objective way of calculating how many new homes are needed in an area” but the “plan-making process for housing has to start with a number”. He added:

“If we are to deliver the new homes this country needs, new development must have the support of local communities. That requires people to know it will be beautiful, accompanied by the right infrastructure, approved democratically, that it will enhance the environment and create proper neighbourhoods.

These principles have always been key to our reforms and we are now going further by strengthening our commitment to build the right homes in the right places and put local people at the heart of decision-making.”

The target will now be “advisory” with numerous amendments made. These amendments were suggested by former cabinet minister, Theresa Villiers, who argued local authorities should have more of a say over “what is built in their neighbourhood”. Isle of Wight MP, Bob Seely also led the calls to remove the housing targets as he said:

“Supported by well over 100 Tory MPs, we have helped ministers shape a housing and planning agenda which is more conservative than the one we currently have. Targets will be advisory, not mandatory. The power of planning inspectors is weakened. Rules which have helped developers force councils to release land will be weakened.”

Industry experts have greeted the news conflictingly with some seeing the move as a U-turn which casts further doubt over the governments ability to address the housing shortage in the UK. Managing Director of Stripe Property Group, James Forrester, commented:

“This is astonishingly negligent on the part of the government. House building has languished below the required 300,000 annual number since the 1950’s and that’s even with the focus and accountability of local authority facing targets. To remove those targets is to allow the UK’s requirement to dangle in the wind and we now have even less chance as a nation of providing adequate dwelling numbers. It’s a dumb move”.

Timothy Douglas, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Propertymark, said:

“The house building targets are a long-standing commitment and it’s worrying to see these being backtracked on. Whilst the UK Government has been unable to deliver them, the answer is to address the issues rather than step back. The country is in desperate need of more homes across all tenures, and the current targets not having been met successively actually puts the number of homes needed in a greater deficit than appears on the surface.”

CEO of Alliance, the Real Estate Fund, Iain Crawford, added:

“Another day, another U-turn but this one is particularly serious in that in watering down the country’s likely annual residential construction output, thousands of would-be buyers and renters are going to have less choice of home. The result will be even higher house prices as increasing demand from net positive immigration and an aging population continues to outweigh supply.”

Head of UK for Unlatch, Lee Martin, also stated:

“Removing accountability for building at local authority level seems somewhat counterintuitive to the problem at hand. Just as the country is slowly getting to grips with higher housebuilding volume and recent completions were starting to look meaningful versus need, the Secretary of State jams that momentum into reverse and effectively kills all possibility of reaching the very levels of supply that the government itself has aimed for but missed for years. It’s hardly progress.”

However, Cllr David Renard, housing spokesperson at the Local Government Association, claims the move should be seen as a positive as it grants much needed powers to local authorities. He stated:

“Councils are committed to working with government and developers to build the housing the country needs, with land for more than 2.6 million homes allocated in Local Plans and nine in 10 planning applications being approved.

It is good that the Government has recognised that national, top-down algorithms and formulas can never be a substitute for local knowledge and decision-making by those who know their areas best. We have been clear that councils and communities are best placed to decide how to build the right homes in the right places in their local areas, with the right infrastructure, and these proposed changes will help to ensure this can happen.

Councils have long-called for more powers to tackle developers who do not build homes in a timely manner and we are pleased the Government is acting on our call for action. By penalising those who sit on planning permissions for longer than necessary, more homes can be provided in a speedy manner to those who really need them the most.”

One Response

  1. In my area Bishop’s Stortford new housing estates are totally out of control , as someone in the building trade quality of housing is shocking and infrastructure is impossible to supply due to the existing layout of our town , plus the people of our town are TOTALLY ignored.

Want to have your say? Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more stories

Join over 7,000 conveyancing professionals – Check back daily for all the latest news, views, insights and best practice and sign up to our e-newsletter to receive our daily and weekly round ups

You’ll receive the latest updates, analysis, and best practice straight to your inbox.