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As we rapidly head into the festive season, with people considering their hopes and aspirations for the Christmas period and the following year, we thought we would share some of our own wishes for the new Housing Policy White Paper due to be published in January. We hope the Government makes the most of this opportunity to inject more flexibility into UK housing policy so that their ambitious targets to build homes of all tenures are actually delivered by 2020.

The Government has indicated that there is no definitive timetable for Starter Homes. Our first ‘wish’ is to get more clarity on this and we would really like to see a broadening of the definition of Starter Homes within the Act, which may be included within the White Paper. The current proposed definition of Starter Homes is too narrow, restricting the ability of local authorities to deliver affordable home ownership in a way best suited to the needs of their local area. As we’ve said before, affordable rent-to-buy models should be included in a wider definition of Starter Homes. Rent-to-buy models like ours can make home ownership a reality for those who are unable to save for a deposit to buy a typical Starter Home. 

Next, we believe more affordable housing could be provided if the Government were to introduce a cascade system for Starter Homes, so if there isn’t enough demand for these properties or the prices are too high, the homes are changed to rent-to-buy or shared ownership instead. This would be a really positive improvement on the current proposal, retaining affordable housing for people who need it instead of developers selling the homes at full price on the open market and paying a commuted sum to the local authority in compensation. We would also like the blanket requirement of 20% Starter Homes on each new development to be revised to give local authorities flexibility to determine the number of Starter Homes that should be included on each developments to reflect local housing needs and demand.

We also hope the Housing White Paper includes a broadening of the National Planning Policy Framework definition of affordable housing, specifically to include rent-to-buy so that it becomes a mainstream affordable housing tenure. This will make it even easier for rent-to-buy models like Rentplus to be included as part of the affordable housing  on new developments as part of s106 agreements  assisting local authorities to achieve their affordable housing targets and create balanced communities.

As a final flourish, we would like more clarity on some of the policies announced in the Autumn Statement. What tenure are the 40,000 affordable homes announced by Philip Hammond intended to be and who will build them? How will the National Productivity Investment Fund be used to speed up housing delivery and can rent-to-buy be part of that provision? When it comes to the new Housing Infrastructure Fund, how can affordable rent-to-buy products be included in the high demand areas to address the unaffordability of homes that Philip Hammond referred to?

As the haze of Christmas clears, and we head into the New Year, we are hopeful that there will be clarity on some of the above points and also change. Ultimately, we believe that flexibility is key to establishing a housing policy fit for the future which will create strong, vibrant communities and unlock delivery so that we can start to fix the issues underlying the housing crisis facing us. 

Richard Connolly, CEO of Rentplus

 

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