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Now it's time to deliver on the promise - More new homes

The housing crisis is now. It is the lack of availability and affordability of housing which cheats too many of our citizens of the most basic of needs - a home to live in.

 

Large-scale new towns are one solution, but can take years to come about. What can we do therefore, to deliver more new homes now? There is a clear political mandate to get building and this means using all of the resources at our disposal to create more new homes.

 

We should concentrate on building small sites in urban areas that have existing infrastructure and are where people are proven to want to live; We must erase requirements for levies and tax that make these sites unviable; We must cut the red tape and regulation and require planning authorities to limit planning conditions; To be pro-active in approving housing schemes and avoid delay; We must allow houses to be built to densities that maximise land use.

 

Small sites are brought forward by small developers who assemble and plan them with great skill, often risking their own capital. These developers need the incentive and encouragement to profit by their efforts - not the burdens of excessive environmental controls.

 

Housing Associations have done a great job in improving standards of quality and management of housing stock. Let us not give this away. A ‘Right to Buy’ cannot be allowed to destroy this valuable sector. Let us simply allow housing associations to transfer rented stock to shared ownership. Tenants could then staircase their way to ownership through this model. Funds raised would allow Housing Associations to take up new housing stock. The Government could then subsidise tenants wishing to buy these homes.

 

Today not all homes look like a child’s drawing. People are prepared to be creative and flexible about where they live. Why not therefore consider building housing in previously rejected areas, such as on flood plains? In other countries in northern Europe for example, floating homes are a common feature of waterways and they are also cheap to build.

 

Office to residential conversion has been a great success in bringing about new homes from disused office space. Agricultural buildings have also been converted to provide homes in the countryside through ‘permitted development’. This is a policy that has worked and should be continued. The proposal to allow other commercial uses to benefit by this should be encouraged.

 

We must also be prepared to use the green belt. We need more ‘rural exception sites’, that provide affordable housing where need is proven in the countryside and especially in small villages. We need to allow more sites in the ‘grey belt’ surrounding existing settlements, allocated specifically for affordable housing, thereby reducing land value and build costs so we can let these homes at low rents. Cheap land equals cheap builds and cheap rents.

 

We have heard the promises. Let us now hope that the new Government acts to deliver on them.

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