Industry reacts to Housing Policies

The UK’s three major political parties have each proposed distinct strategies to tackle the country’s housing shortage and facilitate homeownership. Here’s a detailed breakdown of their pledges and approaches:

Conservative Party

Pledge: Deliver 1.6 million homes over the next parliament (320,000 annually).

Key Strategies:

  • Brownfield Development: Focus on developing brownfield sites, especially in urban areas, by expediting planning requests and lifting certain regulations (e.g., legacy EU nutrient neutrality laws and Section 106 rules).
  • Green Belt Protection: Commitment to protecting green belt land, emphasizing urban development.
  • SME Support: Supporting small builders by lifting planning restrictions and requiring councils to set aside land for them.

Criticism:

  • Feasibility: Experts like Justin Young of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors question the feasibility, noting that achieving over 300,000 new homes a year hasn’t been done since the 1960s.
  • Planning System: The current restrictive planning framework is seen as a major barrier.

Labour Party

Pledge: Deliver 1.5 million homes over the next parliament.

Key Strategies:

  • Brownfield and Green Belt: Brownfield-first strategy but with strategic green belt development, focusing on “grey belt” land.
  • Policy Reforms: Reforming the National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF), restoring mandatory housing targets, and providing greater funding for local planning departments.
  • State Intervention: Proposes full intervention powers and reformed compulsory purchase powers for greater state involvement in housing delivery.

Criticism:

  • SME Builders: Labour’s manifesto lacks explicit support for smaller builders, which are seen as crucial for increasing housing stock.
  • Implementation: While updating the NPPF is welcomed, practical implementation remains uncertain.

Liberal Democrats

Pledge: Build 380,000 houses annually over the next parliament, including 150,000 social homes.

Key Strategies:

  • Brownfield Development: Prioritizing brownfield sites with financial incentives.
  • Green Belt Encroachment: Trialling community land auctions and reforming the Land Compensation Act to make land purchases more affordable for councils.
  • ‘Use It or Lose It’ Powers: Ensuring developers act on planning permissions or risk losing them.

Criticism:

  • Land Compensation Act Reform: While seen as a concrete proposal, its impact depends on the extent of freedoms given to councils, potentially creating disparities between affluent and less affluent areas.

Industry Reactions

  • Brownfield vs. Green Belt: Many in the industry, like Karen Charles of Boyer, argue that demand is higher in less urban locations, necessitating a more flexible approach than strict brownfield development.
  • Planning Reforms: The consensus is that planning system reforms are critical. The Conservatives’ and Labour’s approaches to updating and simplifying planning processes are seen as crucial steps.
  • SME Builder Support: Opening up the market to SME builders is highlighted as essential by experts like Ryan Etchells of Together. The Conservatives’ support in this area is noted, while Labour’s lack of focus on SMEs is criticized.
  • Focus on Homeowners: Some experts, like Brian Brynes of Moneybox, believe that helping first-time buyers should be prioritized alongside housing supply issues.

key differences lie in their approaches to planning regulations

Conclusion

While the pledges vary, all parties recognize the need for significant housing development. The key differences lie in their approaches to planning regulations, support for SME builders, and strategies for utilizing green belt and brownfield land. The effectiveness of these plans will depend on detailed implementation and overcoming the current planning system’s complexities.

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