Housing

No sign of social housing green paper as parliament breaks up for summer

But Communities Secretary James Brokenshire did unveil the first National Planning Policy Framework since 2012 just in time for recess

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire may well have unveiled the first National Planning Policy Framework for six years yesterday – but faced unrest for the delayed social housing green paper.

Brokenshire promised that the new framework will focus on building attractive and better-designed homes in new places with stronger protection for the environment in alignment with Defra’s 25-year environment plan.

Responsibility and accountability for councils and developers when it comes to delivery will also be beefed up with a Housing Delivery Trust coming to local authorities in November.

The new rules will implement 85 of the proposals set out in the housing white paper and the Budget.

Brokenshire said: “Fundamental to building the homes our country needs is ensuring that our planning system is fit for the future.

“This revised planning framework sets out our vision of a planning system that delivers the homes we need. I am clear that quantity must never compromise the quality of what is built, and this is reflected in the new rules.

“We have listened to the tens of thousands of people who told us their views, making this a shared strategy for development in England.”

The government has pledged to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s in a bid to tackle the housing crisis – reaching a figure of 217,000 homes built last year.

But although the framework’s reintroduction of social rented homes was well received by James Prestwich, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, he made calls to ensure that the move was followed up with more investment in social housing.

“We are glad to see that the government has reintroduced social rented homes to its definition of affordable housing,” he said. “We, along with many other organisations, called for this small but important step, which will certainly help to deliver more social housing, providing homes for thousands of people in need across the country.

“We know that we need to be building at least 90,000 social rented homes every year to meet demand, following eight years of sharp government cuts. We welcome concrete proposals from the government that help to redress this longstanding underinvestment.”

It is this focus on social housing that left other campaigners questioning when the promised green paper would arrive.

It is nine months since Brokenshire’s predecessor Sajid Javid announced the “wide-ranging” review into social housing and it was expected to arrive before the summer recess, according to comments made in the House of Commons on June 11.

Labour MP John Healey quizzed the current Communities Secretary on its whereabouts yesterday, citing fears that the announcement would be “dribbled out” during the break when it “can’t be scrutinised”.

Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive Terrie Alafat also slammed the delay and suggested that handling Brexit and upheaval in the MHCLG department had seen housing slip down the pecking order of the government’s priorities.

“We know that if the government does not commit to building more of the right homes, in the right places, at the right prices, our housing crisis will continue to worsen and the prospect of our young people getting access to a home they can afford will be bleak,” she said.

“Doubtless the changes in personnel at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have not helped either. Since the green paper was first announced back in September, we have a new Secretary of State and we are onto our third minister of housing. But this delay simply makes it look as though the government does not see social housing or the people who live in it as a priority, despite repeated assertions to the contrary.”

But a MHCLG spokesperson confirmed that the green paper is in the works and said: “Shortly we will publish a green paper that sets out a new deal for social housing tenants.”

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