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Tory conference: billions pledged to fund housebuilding

Sajid javid number 10 flickr
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The government has outlined three new initiatives to boost house-building, promising that more measures will be revealed in a new housing bill later this year

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today (3 October), communities secretary Sajid Javid said he was ‘not afraid’ to admit that the country had not built enough homes in recent years.

He unveiled two funding packages worth billions to fund housebuilders and pilot a new initiative to build homes on public land. He also said the government would encourage building on brownfield land.

Javid said that a new £3 billion Home Builders fund could help build more than 225,000 homes. The government’s target is 1 million by 2020.

He said: ‘It will help us get more SMEs building, encourage custom-builders, and allow developers to build the infrastructure needed to support new housing.’

Custombuild housing by 6 different architects at Carillion-igloo's Heartlands, Cornwall. image credit: HTA

carillion igloo designs for heartlands image credit hta

Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry, while welcoming the announcement, warned that previous such initiatives had proved ineffective.

‘Some government funding schemes have been previously available to smaller developers, but received relatively poor take-up due to the perceived complexity of applying, and the challenging timescales for delivery and repayment,’ he said.

‘The government will need to work closely with industry to ensure that this policy is delivered in a way that is accessible and that enables both existing SMEs and new entrants to make maximum use of such a substantial fund.’

Another initiative announced by Javid will see ‘accelerated construction’ on public land, with the government partnering with private developers to start a further 15,000 homes by 2020.

He said this scheme would create new supply chains using offsite construction.

Further measures on brownfield land could revitalise town centres, transform abandoned shopping centres and increase housing density around transport hubs, he said.

More ‘significant’ measures are to be included in the forthcoming housing bill, Javid said. The minister also called on MPs and councillors to take a more positive approach towards development.

‘Of course, there are valid reasons to oppose some planning applications,’ he said. ‘If they’re in the wrong place, or there’s not enough infrastructure, or they’re just plain ugly.

‘But all of us have a duty to think about the long-term consequences of every decision we make.’

Citing figures showing that almost 280,00 planning permissions were issued last year, Javid also said that big developers must ‘release their stranglehold on supply’.

‘It’s time to stop sitting on landbanks, delaying build-out,’ he said, ‘The homebuyers must come first.’

Speaking after Javid, chancellor Philip Hammond said the measures were a ‘clear demonstration of this government’s determination to tackle this challenge using all the tools at our disposal.

‘Because making housing more affordable will be a vital part of building a country that works for everyone. And this government is determined that the dream of home ownership should be for the many not the few.’

Commenting on Javid’s speech, Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation said: ‘The industry has increased housing supply significantly in recent years, but innovative thinking is required if we are to deliver the number of homes the country needs. Moves to speed up how quickly builders can get on to sites, to bring more land forward more quickly and to incentivise new entrants will undoubtedly help increase output further.’

Hammond’s speech also announced that the Treasury would extend its promise to guarantee projects granted European Union funding.

Previously, the government had limited its support to projects signed before this year’s autumn statement, but Hammond said today: ‘The Treasury will offer a guarantee to bidders whose projects meet UK priorities and value-for-money criteria that if they secure multi-year EU funding before we exit we will guarantee those payments after we leave the EU, protecting British jobs and businesses after Brexit.’

Comment:

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation
’We are glad to see Government getting on with ‘business as usual’. Brexit cannot be allowed to distract us all from the pressing need to build more homes.

’Plans to use surplus public land to build homes faster and changes to planning rules to help build on brownfield land are both very welcome news, particularly for the build to rent sector.

’Purpose-built rental development mostly takes place on brownfield land and therefore anything that helps with planning will be welcomed with open arms by our sector. We look forward to more details on use of public land and modern construction techniques, which are being embraced by the build to rent sector.’

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