Liverpool property figures have reacted to the government’s Housing White Paper which promises to “fix the country’s broken housing market”.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday announced a range of new measures to help build affordable housing, including greater powers for local authorities, increased support for smaller building firms and longer tenancy agreements.
According to the new housing strategy, at least 250,000 new homes need to be built every year to meet demand.
Measures outlined in the White Paper to help reach this number include pressuring councils to produce an up-to-date plan for housing demand, lowering the time allowed between planning permission and the start of building from three years to two and the introduction of a “lifetime ISA” to help young people save for their first home.
Developers will also be instructed to avoid “low-density” housing where land availability is in short supply whilst a £3 billion fund has been created to help smaller builders take on major housebuilders including funding for off-site construction.
Mr Javid maintained that the government’s commitment to preserving green space will continue and introduced new banning orders to stop the “worst landlords or agents from operating”.
He says: “Walk down your local high street today and there’s one sight you’re almost certain to see. Young people, faces pressed against the estate agent’s window, trying and failing to find a home they can afford.
“With prices continuing to sky rocket, if we don’t act now, a whole generation could be left behind. We need to do better, and that means tackling the failures at every point in the system.
“The housing market in this country is broken and the solution means building many more houses in the places that people want to live.
“We are setting out ambitious proposals to help fix the housing market so that more ordinary working people from across the country can have the security of a decent place to live. The only way to halt the decline in affordability and help more people onto the housing ladder is to build more homes. Let’s get Britain building.”
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, who is also the Core Cites UK cabinet member for housing, has welcomed a government rethink on its approach to housing but questioned whether the White Paper will result in “genuine change in the right direction”.
He says: “We welcome the government’s new focus on homes for rent both as a tenure in its own right and also a staircase into home ownership, however the quality of rented homes needs to be improved.
“However, there is still much about current housing policy that needs to change. National policies are still too focused on issues affecting London and the South East and funding streams are still overly complex and require simplifying.
“The housing crisis requires urgent action, tailored to suit the specific local needs of communities, and not more rhetoric.”
Lee Darwen, operations director at Liverpool property developer Caro Developments, has welcomed the White Paper’s emphasis on making the most of existing properties.
He says: “Yesterday’s White Paper placed emphasis on the need for developers to make the most of existing properties.
“This is something that we as a developer are keen to promote and all of our current developments are the result of conversions of pre-existing buildings.
“The concerns outlined in the White Paper underpin the idea that developers must learn to be more creative with their use of space.
“One of these creative methods is to build high and projects like this are helping to make the most of limited city centre space.
“Creating living spaces from old or derelict buildings also has a positive effect on the wider community and can ensure that residential estates are not blighted with disused spaces.”
Helen Griffin-Booth, director of Bluerow Homes, says: “I’m pleased to see that there will be greater opportunity for smaller building firms, with new plans to provide mandatory support for these developers.
“The £3bn fund will go a long way in supporting these firms and creating a more competitive developer market.
“This move will mean that home buyers will benefit from a greater choice in property, with a variety in house types and styles coming to the market.
“The move to introduce three-year tenancies will certainly see benefits for landlords and tenants. There will be more security for families who want a long-term home, while landlords will benefit from guaranteed income. This said, there is a risk for landlords being tied down to “problem tenants”.
“Given the length of the tenancy, it will be executed as a deed rather than a tenancy agreement, meaning that it will be more difficult to terminate the contract. I would advise landlords to ensure that they are using a credible tenancy agency to vet potential tenants accordingly.”
Lisa Evans, property solicitor at Kirwans law firm adds: “The White Paper makes a good start in terms of addressing the housing situation, but I would make certain provisos. While I agree that we need more homes and a faster build-out rate, we do need to be selective about where we build.
“With houses come people – all of whom need to be supported by a sound community infrastructure with schools, shops, primary care, public transport routes and other services. By creating houses with no infrastructure, we’re simply introducing other social problems.
“There is also the risk that, in throwing new, affordable housing together, there could be a reduction in quality, with tenants and residents suffering from the inevitable health problems that poorly constructed housing can bring. That’s in addition to the financial difficulties they could face as, longer term, they try and put things right.
“One solution, in Liverpool at least, could be for structurally sound but derelict houses to be converted into homes rather than simply facing the bulldozer.
“Many Liverpool streets have rows and rows of vacant houses; why not convert these sound structures and redevelop what we already have so that these properties are in line with new housing, in the same way that Granby Four Streets has done with its redeveloped homes?
“Of course, this could not feasibly be done without some government support. But surely there is an argument for limiting the new builds and instead providing grants to individuals and smaller developers in order to allow them to take the shells of these unloved homes, turn them into much-needed housing, and rebuild those once vibrant communities that previous governments have torn apart.”