The 6th February saw the issue of the Housing White Paper, “Fixing our Broken Housing Market”, which is out for consultation until 2nd May 2017.  Have the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid and the Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell, have come up with a workable plan that will achieve the magic effect, of “Fixing the Broken Housing Market”?

The good news is an acknowledgement that home-ownership is not for everyone, and has changed in the way it was perceived in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, where all working young people were encouraged into home ownership.  Now most, even with the help of the bank of Mum and Dad, expect to live either in the parental home or in private rented accommodation, for several years – some commentators believing that the current average age for first time home-ownership is 37!

As expected, longer tenancies are mooted, Mr. Javid saying in the Commons that a 3-year minimum tenancy would be introduced, though the White Paper itself speaks in more general terms of ensuring “more longer-term tenancies are available in private rented schemes”.  This will not provide more accommodation in our local area, where tenants  know  their landlords will not evict them without a reason and have lived in their original 6-month tenancy far in excess of 3 years.

This could be good news for tenants in London and the Southwest,  where frequent evictions are known so rents can rise exorbitantly over a very short period of time. Children are unable to settle, communities become unstable.  It will only apply to new-build properties, not those which are already in the private rented sector. Few of these properties will go to the vulnerable but will be welcomed by the professionals in the capital.  Though Mr. Javid stated the Government’s determination to “make housing more affordable and secure for ordinary working families and have a rental market that offers much more choice” this will not help those already in the sector in high value areas, where the average couple pay about half their income on rent.

  • There is a commitment to build more houses (a similar commitment to force owners to let the approximately 200,000 properties that lie empty, would also help with the housing shortage).
  • The Conservative Party Conference pledged a £3bn Home Building Fund, to provide loans for custom builders, offsite construction and infrastructure.
  • Time-limits for development where planning permission has been gained, reduced to 2 years, instead of the 3 it currently stands at, to speed completions and improve communities.
  • It was feared that building on Green Belt land would become easier, but Mr. Barwell stated that this was allowable only in exceptional circumstances.  Properties will be built, for the most part, on brown field sites in towns and cities, with higher density than was once thought desirable.  Is this how we will house the needy, at population densities we would not have accepted 40 years ago?

Are these measures, together with the ban on agents taking fees from prospective tenants, enough to revitalise the private sector?  We can only hope, but buy-to-let schemes, the ISA’s to assist with home ownership,  high density areas, will continue and perhaps increase the desire to enter home-ownership.

By Sharon Betton – NWLA Business Development Officer