David Cameron to relax planning to boost affordable homes

David Cameron pledged at the Conservative Party Conference to change planning rules in an attempt to get 200,000 affordable homes built by 2020.

Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed plans to accelerate the provision of affordable homes for first-time buyers by relaxing planning rules.

In his speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Cameron hailed a "dramatic shift in housing policy in our country - from Generation Rent to Generation Buy".

He promised to change planning policy on affordable housing in a bid to get the 200,000 affordable new homes he wants to see built by 2020.

Local authorities currently require house builders to provide low cost homes for rent in new housing developments.

However, Cameron's proposal will allow house builders to build and sell starter homes in place of affordable homes for rent.

The starter homes will be for available to first-time buyers aged 40 or under at a discount. The scheme will be limited to properties valued up to £450,000 in London and £250,000 elsewhere.

First-time buyers who purchase a starter home will not be allowed to sell the property for a quick profit. Buyers can register their interest in buying one of the new starter homes on the www.starter-home.co.uk website.
The Conservatives announced the Starter Homes scheme earlier this year. And in the run up to the General Election, the party’s manifesto put home ownership at its core. Other pledges included:

• Extension of the right-to-buy scheme so that 1.3 million council tenants can buy their homes at a discount.
• A fund to help build 400,000 new homes.

The move to provide starter homes is part of a raft of measures introduced by the Government in recent years to help people onto the property ladder. These include the Help to Buy scheme for those with a small deposit.

Cameron said: "When a generation of hardworking men and women in their 20s and 30s are waking up each morning in their childhood bedrooms, that should be a wake-up call for all of us. We need a national crusade to get houses built. That means banks lending, Government releasing land and, yes, planning being reformed.”

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, explained: "Greater flexibility in the way affordable housing is provided should not only speed up the process of securing an implementable planning permission but also make more sites viable for new housing.

"This will in turn increase availability of homes of all types and help address the chronic shortage that has been allowed to develop. House builders are committed to delivering high quality, low cost homes for a new generation of first-time buyers, if the policy environment allows them to."

Lawrence Hall of Zoopla added: “The Prime Minister’s pledge represents positive news for those trying to take their first step on the property ladder and affords more flexibility to those attempting to provide the houses they will actually live in.

“However, while 200,000 starter homes by 2020 sounds like an impressive figure in isolation, the UK needs this many new homes each year to address the housing supply shortage that has plagued the nation for some time and caused real issues for prospective home buyers."

However, the British Property Federation (BPF) has urged the Government to focus on delivery of all housing tenures, not just owner-occupation.

It warned that, although initiatives to create more homes for sale are welcome, high house prices and the growing number of private renters in the UK means that more must be done to encourage the purpose-built rental sector.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the BPF, said: “Politicians talk about Generation Rent as if it is something to be ashamed of, when this should not be the case. Countries such as Germany and the US have thriving rental markets, where people happily live in institutionally-backed, purpose-built, high quality rented accommodation for many years.

“While we are not against owner-occupation, and see starter homes as a welcome initiative, we are aware that such a policy is stoking demand for home ownership, rather than focusing on meeting supply."


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