Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Housing White Paper

 I will not include the full 7 page  response to the Housing White Paper (found through Google) but would encourage readers to  read the proposals and send their ideas to,   asap

To a very large extent the HWP  amounts to further tinkering with the planning system justified on the basis that the recommendations would be so profound and long-lasting that there would be no further meddling required!?   The HWP  is subtitled “Fixing our broken housing market". The Government refuses to understand the extent to which  it is the market in  land which is broken and that it would be by capturing the land value attributable to residential development  that many of the problems of housing supply could be fixed. However, there also needs to be a greater understanding of the planning and housing ' system'.   This means that by finding  and triggering a virtuous circle(s)  more can be achieved  and more predictably than by fiddling with  every little part. It is in this respect that by building almost exclusively two bedroom dwellings the whole housing  stock can  be brought into balance with housing needs (those of smaller households of young and old)  in a way that makes efficient use of land, materials and labour and results in lower costs of owning/renting and  living.

The HWP  seems to be a serious attempt by the Government to avoid its obligations in terms of reduction of carbon emissions.  There is no clear intent to ensure that unsustainable development (i.e. that which does not consume  its own smoke)  does not benefit from the presumption in favour of sustainable development set out at paragraph 14 of the National Planning Policy Framework.  It is most important that responses to the White Paper expect the Government to ensure that housing supply is consistent with the internationally agreed target of 1.5° of global warming. In the context where reductions will be very hard to achieve in industry, power generation, agriculture, transport and the military it is in the housing sector where building must be carbon neutral or negative.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the Government   continues to believe that increasing the supply of housing will reduce its price (and  not that it is the inflated price of land which is the main culprit).    The work by Oxford Economics  behind the Redfern Review  provides the latest explanation of how adding just 1% ( in practice much less) to a  stock of over 20 million houses will not influence the price.  The importance of this  relatively small increase to the housing stock is that  this scarce resource must be used with extreme care.  In order to  meet the  genuine needs for  housing the elderly  (and others in need of care) every new dwelling will be required to follow the models described in the HAPPI 3 family -  which include cohousing.  

The Government is playing with the idea of a national industrial strategy. In this context it could be suggested that  this could and should be complemented by a national spatial plan to  demonstrate how to make better use of the land and infrastructure than piling more pressures on the south-east. 

There are many other issues raised by the White Paper for readers to get their teeth into including the future of green belts and new categories of (un) affordable housing. The suggestion that larger sites be subdivided to  make the delivery of dwellings more certain could be supported especially as  local planning authorities are required to provide serviced sites for self/custom-builders.

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