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Housing Bill: what you need to know

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The AJ digests the key points from the government’s new Housing and Planning Bill

Office-to-residential permitted development rights

The temporary permitted development right which allows underused offices to be converted into homes has been made permanent. In addition the new plans will also allow office buildings to be pulled down and replaced with housing under permitted developments.

Local plans

The government will have powers to ensure all councils have local plans in place by 2017.


The controversial plans first mooted in the Conservative’s election manifesto which would see the right-to-buy programme extended to all housing association tenants has been confirmed.  

Nationally significant infrastructure projects

An element of housing will be included in development consent orders for nationally significant infrastructure projects. The plans are likely to grant consent for developments of less than 500 homes on, next to, or close by the relevant infrastructure scheme.

Starter homes

A framework for the government’s starter homes scheme was set out in the bill. It defines a starter home as being newly-built, for first-time buyers under the age of 40, and to be sold at a discount of at least 20 per cent of the market value. The price of these homes has been capped at £450,000 in London and £250,000 across the rest of England. The bill also states that local authorities should only approve planning applications if a development provides a certain number of starter homes. The government will also require local authorities to publically report the number of starter homes being provided.

Brownfield land

Councils will be required to keep a register of all brownfield land. Automatic planning permission in principle will be granted to brownfield sites in an effort to build more new homes quicker and to protect the greenbelt.

Self-build and custom housebuilding

Local authorities must provide enough serviced plots of land to meet the demand for self-build and custom housebuilding in their area to meet the government’s target of building 20,000 of these homes per year by 2020.

High value local authority housing

Local authorities will be forced to sell of any high vacant housing which has become available.


Brandon Lewis, housing minister
‘As a one nation government we’re determined that anybody who works hard and aspires to own their own home has the opportunity to do so.

‘More than 230,000 households have been helped into homeownership through government-backed schemes since 2010, while our extension to the Right to Buy will see a further 1.3 million housing association tenants given the opportunity to own their own home.

‘And the Housing Bill will allow us go even further by kick-starting a national crusade to get 1 million homes built by 2020. It truly is an historic moment that will help deliver the homes hard-working people rightly deserve, transforming generation rent into generation buy.’

A RIBA spokesperson
‘While the RIBA is not opposed to the idea of an offices function being adapted to a housing use on a case by case basis, the scope of this policy undermines the role of strategic planning in building sustainable places and resilient communities.

‘There is a clear risk exemptions from standards will lead to low quality housing’

‘The homes delivered under the policy are exempt from space and environmental standards and there is a clear risk that this will lead to low quality housing. We are particularly concerned about the number of very small apartments being squeezed into converted office buildings across England.

‘The RIBA welcomes the Government’s recognition that the shortage of housing has reached a crisis point. However, it is becoming clear that the solution to the housing crisis is not going to be found in tinkering around the edges of the planning system. As the Housing Bill passes through Parliament we hope the Government will set out more detail on how they intend to ensure that the quality of new homes is given the same priority as the numbers.

‘We are concerned that the pressure to raise output and speed up the planning system through initiatives like starter homes and zonal planning will do little to change the public debate and challenge knee-jerk opposition to new developments even in areas with acute housing shortages.

‘The shortage of resources in the planning system and the long delays that this is causing is of major concern to the RIBA. The requirement to have an adopted local plan by 2017 is welcome, however this needs to be done in a way that secures local support and leads to plans that acknowledge the scale of the challenge.

‘The shortage of affordable homes across the country is of particular concern to the RIBA. Housing Associations have played a leading role in helping deliver high-quality new homes and strong communities – including the 2015 Stirling Prize shortlisted Darbishire Place. If the extension of the right to buy leads to fewer new homes being built, it is vital that the Government sets out its plans to replace this output.’

Tom Copley, Labour’s London Assembly housing spokesperson
‘These proposals will devastate the capital’s housing market and do nothing but fuel already rocketing house prices by forcing councils to sell off between 3,000 and 4,500 council homes a year.

‘The Housing Bill will be another nail in the coffin of genuinely affordable housing. It’s as if the government believes we have too many affordable homes in London.

‘The money raised through selling London’s council housing will be used to build new Starter Homes in parts of the country where there is no housing crisis. We will have the perverse situation where affordable housing will be sold in London - where we have an unprecedented shortage - to fund the building of new homes in parts of the country where there is no shortage.

‘This is little more than London being used as a cash cow by a government that clearly has no interest in solving London’s housing shortage.

‘The Mayor’s failure to persuade the government that money raised from sales in London should stay in London is clear. He must now vote against this bill in parliament - failure to do so would be an utter betrayal of London and Londoners.’

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London
‘The publication of the Housing Bill is an important milestone and the Mayor welcomes the government’s continued commitment to increasing homeownership. 

‘The Mayor has been very clear that the most significant threat to London’s economy is the under supply of homes. City Hall is now carefully considering the contents of the bill and how it can be strengthened to boost supply in the capital.

‘The Mayor will continue to argue for all proceeds from the sale of high value London council and housing association properties be invested back into the city to deliver much needed new homes.’

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