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“Fixing our broken housing market”

The government’s white paper on housing, called “Fixing our broken housing market,” was presented to the House of Commons and Lords on Tuesday.

The white paper accepts that there is a shortage of homes on the market and further acknowledges, in a radical departure for the Conservative party, that home ownership is not the aim for every person in the market.

The goals set out in the paper can be summarised as follows:

  1. To plan for the right homes in the right places. Councils will implement measures for greater land transparency around land ownership. This transparency will highlight where land is available for housing or unavailable because individuals or organisations have purchased it but have not built on it.
  2. To build homes faster. The government intends to invest in making the planning system more open and accessible to limit delays.
  3. To diversify the housing market. The government hopes to encourage smaller builders and builders that embrace innovative and efficient building methods to enter the market.

So, is there anything new in the white paper which will affect landlords and tenants?

  • Agent’s fees – Whilst the government has acknowledged that building more homes quickly will help with affordability they stress that this will not address a tenant’s fears of upfront agent fees and short term tenancies. Many of you will recall, that the issue over agent’s fees was addressed by the Chancellor in the Autumn statement. However, in the white paper the government have pledged to bring forward the legislation to implement the ban, subject to parliamentary time.

  • Housing and Planning Act 2016 – In June 2016, we blogged on the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and specifically, agent client accounts, mandatory electrical safety checks, banning orders and a rogue landlord/agent database. So, there are no new steps to be taken by the government in respect of the above but it appears that they wished to remind readers of the provisions of the Housing and Planning Act and the contents therein.

  • Homelessness Bill – Homelessness is a great concern for Bob Blackman MP and the government has pledged to support his Homelessness Reduction Bill. The Bill will see that those facing homelessness are given help with accommodation much earlier than when a bailiff is at their doorstep.

  • Build to Rent and ‘family- friendly tenancies’ – What does appear to be new is the government’s acceptance that there is a need for good quality rental properties. A ‘Build to Rent’ scheme in Greenwich, London will be branched out to other areas to allow local authorities to plan proactively for ‘Build to Rent’. The correct planning should see local developers offering affordable ‘Build to Rent’ properties. Councils will also be encouraged to offer what is referred to as ‘family-friendly tenancies’ of 3 years or more.

The white paper has a lot of discussion around planning and the building of new homes but relatively little that will directly affect the private rental sector. Furthermore, most of the changes around longer tenancies are aimed at larger institutional landlords or housing associations. There is no doubt that the longer-term effects of new stock arriving onto the market will change the dynamics eventually but that will take several years. But what appears to be clear is that there is a change in emphasis by the government which shows a new interest in the rental sector which could lead to further changes in regulating the private rental sector more strongly.

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