In the absence of the Housing White Paper, the industry is still left needing to mind the gap. We have simplified budgets – abolishing the Autumn Statement – but no hint of simplified planning for growth.
The overall commitment to housing is welcome mood music, but the lack of detail on powers and fiscal incentives to support locally-led Garden Towns to deliver at the scale needed leaves a hole. Expanding grant funding for affordable tenures is great news but at £25,000 per unit is not going to be life changing.
The £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund could be a game changer if it is used to reward areas for proactively planning for growth. Making an up to date housing land supply a condition for at least some of the funding would dangle the right carrot for authorities that currently only have the stick. The lack of fiscal measures for new settlements – incentivising forward funding of major infrastructure that can unlock delivery at real scale – is disappointing though.
Affordable Housing is heading towards life support – delivery in 2015-16 was 52% lower than last year. The announcement in the Autumn Statement of a funding injection to deliver 40,000 affordable homes is welcome. It is a clear recognition that addressing the housing shortage is not simply about building more homes. Yes, we need more but they must meet a variety of needs. There are further signals of a softening of the Government’s stance on Starter Homes – tenure flexibility replacing David Cameron’s commitment to a single tenure.
Without the Housing White Paper, there is also still a wait to see how the NPPF is going to be reshaped and in particular how housing land supply and Local Plan duties will be re-set following expert advice on accelerating delivery. If the Community Infrastructure Levy is to be replaced by a simplified flat national charge, the effect on infrastructure funding and the transitional arrangements need to be understood now, so that schemes in the pipeline do not get put into suspended animation.
The statement gives some clues about the Government’s direction of travel but, funding commitments aside, offers little substance. We still await the detail in the Housing White Paper which we are told will be published “soon”. Reasons for the delay are unclear. Have responses to leaks on more radical measures, such as penalising developers for slow delivery, prompted a re-think?