“We were promised a White Paper, but we have been presented with a white flag – feeble beyond belief”.. said John Healey shadow minister of state for housing. Others commented it was a “predictably damp squib” and a “missed opportunity.” Even Redrow said it was “disappointing” with chief executive John Tutte saying the housing white paper was very light on details and he was surprised it was “more of a consultative document.” This is hardly surprising as the stench of the Home Builders Federation (HBF) was all over this housing white paper, an example being the caving into pressure from the likes John Tutte regarding newts “delaying” new home building. Britain needed ‘Donald Trump’ style action and got a Donald Duck builders’ puppet. “Hard-hitting” proposals were watered down to Westminster’s famous thin gruel, generally becoming ideas for consultation, subjects for further discussion and situations to monitor. This 104 page housing white paper is little more than a plan for more talking and a missed opportunity for decisive, positive action.
On Tuesday DCLG secretary Sajid Javid declared that Britain’s housing market was indeed broken. With the average home costing eight-times average earnings and a total of 2.2 million working households with below-average incomes, spending a third or more of their disposable income on housing, it’s hard to disagree! Mr Javid claimed his housing white paper will provide “radical lasting reform” to fix it.
The latest data figures from the DCLG on Affordable Housing supply April 2015 to March 2016 published yesterday, show that the number of affordable homes built in England in 2015/16 has fallen to its lowest level for 24 years. In total, just 32,110 new affordable homes were added – a 52% decline on the previous twelve months (66,600).
Figures for affordable housing are split into three catagories: social rent, affordable rent and affordable home ownership/shared ownership.
The DCLG figures showed the number of new homes for ‘social rent’ fell to just 6,550 – 83% lower than the 39,500 built in 2010/11. The number of homes for private rental at ‘affordable rent’ has now fallen 41% from a peak of 40,730 in 2014/15 to 16,550 in 2015/16. The total constructed for ‘affordable home ownership’ has also dropped 21% from 15,970 to only 3,430 over the same period.Labour housing spokesman John Healey said:
“The figures showed the government was building the lowest number of social rented homes since records began. This all-time low results from Conservative ministers who have washed their hands of any responsibility to build the homes families on ordinary incomes need. We’ve seen six wasted years with the Tories in charge of housing. They have no long-term plan for housing and they’re doing too little to fix the housing crisis for millions of people who are just managing to cover their housing costs.”
Yet more funding for housebuilders! Whatever became of austerity, “there’s no money left” and “balancing the budget by 2020”? So is the country now awash with spare cash? Of course not. According to the national debt clock, the UK is borrowing another £5,170 per SECOND or £1.86m an hour! The National debt is currently £1,762,340,000,000 (1.76trn), this equates to £28,291 for every person living in the UK or £48,600 for each UK taxpayer! So I find it totally incomprehensible that another £5bn is being added, to further and unnecessarily subsidise private housebuilding under the guise of increasing the number of new homes built.We have already had the ‘The Osborne Stupidity’ – ‘Help to Buy’ fuelling house prices and housebuilders’ record profits. Now we have the ‘The May Lunacy’ ‘Help to Build’, yet more funding for housebuilders. Last week the Theresa May’s government announced two major housing initiatives; a £3bn Home Building Fund – £2bn long term funding for infrastructure and £1bn short term loan funding aimed towards enabling smaller developers enter the market. As is often the case with government announcements of supposedly “new funds” £1.2bn of the £3bn was previously announced as the Large Sites Infrastructure Fund in 2015. In addition, a new £2bn “Accelerated Construction Programme” aiming at getting new homes built more quickly on public land.
At last! Peter Redfern admits quality is being compromised in the rush to build new homes
Taylor Wimpey CEO Peter Redfern has said that the Government’s target to build a million homes by 2020 is unachievable and quality will be compromised if the industry does try to meet it. Well if anyone should know about compromising the quality of new homes it’s Redfern! Taylor Wimpey has a terrible reputation for building poor quality homes and when their customers complain, an equally poor record and attitude to fixing these defects. This, despite the claims made on Taylor Wimpey’s website including: “The standard of home building in the UK has never been higher than it is today.” ” it’s like buying a brand new car and driving it out of the showroom” Only with a new car it is unlikely to have as many problems as a new Taylor Wimpey home!
Only last November, Taylor Wimpey were extensively featured on the Dispatches Documentary “Britain’s Nightmare New Homes.” In 2012 Taylor Wimpey were again panned on the BBC Watchdog programme.
The company’s unhappy buyers regularly lambast the builder on social media with the twitter feed #thinkwimpeythinktwice. On 5th December 2015, BBC South today recently featured the story of Evelyn Lallo who has been living in temporary home since June 2015, whilst Taylor Wimpey sorts out serious defects.
An end to Landbanking? Councils demand the power to tax housebuilders who sit on land and block housebuilding
The Local Government Association said councils should have the power to charge big companies that sit on sites with planning approval for new homes.
The Local Government Association says Councils should be given the power to tax developers for each home yet to be completed to unlock around 475,000 units which are yet to be started. The proposal is that full council tax should apply to housebuilders sitting on development sites where new homes have been given the green light from the date planning permission expires. That would mean Britain’s large housebuilders would need to complete their sites or pay council tax on every unfinished new home within three years after gaining planning permission.
A Conservative Government – the gift that keeps on giving!
Champagne corks must be popping in the boardrooms of housebuilders across the country as this Conservative Government announces yet more plans to help the industry with a “Cutting Red Tape” review.Notwithstanding the unprecedented boost that the housebuilders have already received from this Government – plc housebuilders were the biggest winners from the recent Autumn Statement after George “we are the builders” Osborne announced a raft of new changes that further support the sector in the relentless headline grabbing political pressure to ramp up UK homebuilding.
In his Autumn Statement, Osborne announced a number of measures which include plans for a £7bn house building programme, a boost to the Help to Buy scheme, with Londoners a 40% loan rather than the previously-announced 20% loan and more freedom for Local Authorities to sell off land. The main benefit being from the shared ownership scheme and the extension of Help to Buy. The big seven: Barratt, Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon, Berkeley, Bellway, Redrow and Bovis will benefit the most from the moves.
Thanks to successful lobbying by the HBF, it is a case of Carry On Regardless as housebuilders dodge yet another bullet, this time it is building larger ‘fit for purpose’ new homes.
As with most things that effect housebuilders, the new National Space Standards for new homes have been watered-down to such an extent that it is doubtful that any of the major housebuilders will ever be required (or forced) to design new homes that adhere to the new space standards. Not that this matters as the space standards have been set so low, that the size of the average new homes currently being built all but comply anyway!
The average family home shrinks two square metres in ten years.
Britain’s incredible shrinking new homes
Britain’s tiny ‘rabbit-hutch’ new homes are bad for your health
Unlike other aspects of the Housing Standards Review, the space standard has not been incorporated into the Building Regulations. Establishing compliance and any enforcement action will rest with the local planning authority.
You may have missed it among all the headline-grabbing talk of increasing the minimum wage and yet more cuts to welfare, but as part of George Osborne’s summer budget announcements, this Conservative government also abolished the requirement for all new homes to be ‘zero carbon’ from April 2016.
Whilst it is reported that some housebuilders had already started work to meet the challenge, the major plc housebuilders would have probably known all along that the election of a Conservative government would at the very least, have enabled some ‘wiggle-room’ to water down or delay the requirements – if not the full scale capitulation reversal of the zero carbon policy that Osborne announced.
This pointless reversal – an appalling act of policy vandalism, will undoubtedly raise energy bills and carbon emissions well into the next century, sending out totally wrong message for the Paris climate talks. The Conservative government has cynically chosen put both house builders’ and energy providers’ profit making ahead of its deep moral responsibility to act to mitigate any possible impact on our climate in the future.
The zero-carbon commitment begun in 2006 and supported through successive governments has now been re interpreted as unnecessary ‘red tape’, allegedly holding back new house building projects, productivity and even the general UK economy.
The latest figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government report the 137,000 new homes were started in 2014 – a 10% increase on the previous 12 months. The total of just 118,760 new homes completed in the 12 months to 31 December 2014 was up by 8% on 2013.
If ever there was proof that house builders are hoarding land and restricting supply this is it. Nearly every major plc house builder now has around five or six years’ supply of building land. Despite this their lobbyists the Home Builders Federation (HBF) are still bleating on about the planning system.
Stewart Baseley, executive chairman at the Home Builders Federation claimed that more than 100,000 extra people were now employed in house-building, providing a boost to the economy. Yet the HBF is demanding further incentives to encourage more development.
He said, “We are still way short of building the number of new homes the country needs, and that despite the government’s Help to Buy scheme, it was still too difficult for developers to get planning permission.”
Ho Ho Ho! – Christmas comes early for house builders as David Cameron is set to announce another extension of the Help to Buy scheme at his party’s conference in Birmingham this week.
Under the latest proposals, David Cameron anticipates that up to 100,000 houses would be built on so-called ‘brownfield’ land and offered for sale only to young people buying their first home in England. The new homes would be offered at discounted prices of 20% less than their market value. Exactly who will be valuing the new homes and “comparable” homes has yet to be clarified, but it should be expected that the house builders would set the “market prices” and then “discount” them by 20%. So, in theory at least, a new house worth £200,000 could be bought by a first-time buyer under 40 for £160,000 with a potential saving of £40,000.
To make the discount possible, the Conservatives are proposing to exempt house builders from certain taxes and requirements such as the Section 106 provision of affordable and social housing, the Community Infrastructure Levy and the Zero Carbon Homes Standard on these sites. In addition, brownfield sites – land previously used for commercial or industrial purposes – and surplus public sector land will be released to house builders at knock-down prices to fund the discounting – savings which house builders will be “obliged” to pass on to buyers.
House builders will be required to demonstrate, before planning approval is given, that the homes they are proposing to build will be at least a 20% cheaper than comparable houses in order to qualify for the discounted land and tax exemptions. That could mean that at the outset, the homes would have a price set before planning and could perhaps discourage house builders from land banking these sites. Brownfield land can be notoriously costly to develop. Previous industrial and commercial sites are often contaminated and the demolition and clean up of toxins can be as time-consuming as it is expensive. Factor in that it will also be necessary to bring in clean topsoil and that costly foundation designs may also be required, it is not surprising that the house builder’s preference is always going to be Greenfield land.