Queen confirms housing bill

The Conservatives unveiled 26 bills for the next parliament with one specifically aimed at helping to deal with Britain’s housing crisis.

The Housing Bill included plans to: increase the supply of new starter homes to be exclusively offered to young first-time buyers at a 20% discount below their open market value; introduce a statutory register for brownfield land, to help achieve the target of getting local development orders in place on 90% of suitable brownfield sites by 2020; and simplify and speed up the neighbourhood planning system to support communities that seek to meet local housing and other development needs through neighbourhood planning.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “The government has a huge task on its hands if it is to deliver enough new homes to house future generations, and must focus on supply-side solutions to meet demand. The devil will be in the detail, and there is an opportunity for innovative suggestions to drive forward supply.”

She said the Starter Homes initiative “holds potential” but added she had “several questions around the realities of delivery and whether there will be sufficient infrastructure provision on the allocated sites”.

She added: “The focus on brownfield land is similarly positive, but we have doubts about how much suitable land will come to market. Local development orders are not the silver bullet and experience shows that they are costly for local authorities to produce.

“Neighbourhood planning changes are to be welcomed, particularly if they enable pro-growth, business-led neighbourhood plans to come forward with greater speed.”

Association of British Insurer director general Huw Evans said steps must be taken to provide more affordable homes, which are badly needed by many people.

He said: “However this needs to be achieved in a sustainable way, within a planning system which is robust about refusing inappropriate development in areas of flood risk and which pays proper attention to advice from the Environment Agency.”

Kim Vernau, chief executive of BLP Insurance, called on builders and local authorities to work together to double the number of new homes available in the affordable housing market:

She said: “We need to build 200,000 houses a year in England alone to satisfy demand. Last year the total number of houses built by the private sector was fewer than 94,000. The top five builders are estimated to be able to satisfy only 30% of this demand so it is essential that other builders, along with housing associations and local authorities, are able to build.

“Affordable homes must be quality builds with the requisite space, light, maintenance costs and energy efficiency requirements in built.

“The government will need to ensure that there is no reduction in the amount of affordable housing available as a result of this scheme.”

Debating the speech in parliament this afternoon Emily Thornberry, Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, said the Conservatives had failed to give an answer in their manifesto or in the Queen's Speech for the housing crisis. The only answer "is to build more housing," she said.

Other bills confirmed today included plans to devolve more power to the Scottish government to set income tax rates and bands north of the border, plans to cut red tape for British businesses and an in/out referendum on the European Union.