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Government calls for better housing faster

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The government is to pilot tough new design standards for housing in its latest bid to tackle Britain's mounting housing crisis.

Housing minister Yvette Cooper has outlined an £8 billion housing Green Paper aimed at delivering better-designed homes more quickly and in far greater quantity.

The package includes a commitment to build at least 70,000 affordable homes a year by 2011 - doubling the amount built each year.

Councils that build the most houses will be awarded extra funding and measures to prevent private-sector builders 'landbanking' will be introduced.

Moreover, local councils and developers will be invited to 'host' zero-carbon eco-towns, with each town providing between 5,000 and 20,000 green homes by 2016.

The Green Paper also reveals plans for 14 new community land trusts to boost the supply and financing of affordable housing and greater efforts to bring long-term empty housing back on stream.

The measures are being bankrolled by an £8 billion slice of the Comprehensive Spending Review for 2008 to 2011.

To appease alarmed environmentalists, Cooper has reinforced Labour's commitment to 'robust protection of the green belt' and insisted that all new homes from 2016 would be carbon neutral.

Outlining the paper in the House of Commons, Cooper said: 'We need more homes - but we need better designed, more sustainable homes. This is a green Green Paper with tough planning rules on building in flood-risk areas,' she said.

by Clive Walker

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