A quick scorecard of the best and worst bits of the government’s much awaited housing policy
In the midst of 104 pages, there are bound to be some policy gems - and a few goofs. At first blush, what marks out of 10 can we give secretary of state Sajid Javid and the government white paper on housing?
Javid gets 0 out of 10 for being up to date on how people hunt for properties to rent or buy - “noses pushed up against an estate agent’s window”? Get a life and get online. Zoopla’s not a dance; it’s a search engine.
One out of 10 for believing that neighbourhood plans need beefing up. These localised plans are part of the problem. You can’t really meet national need by doffing a cap to very local concerns.
Two out of 10 for government intervention - developers being forced to deliver more quickly? Why pick on developers who need to plan strategically for the delivery of housing units, and get the supply chain right and the workforce from somewhere beyond the UK? Instead, government could intervene directly and build out housing on public land, or offer up land on the basis of it forming a Community Land Trust.
One out of 10 for believing that neighbourhood plans need beefing up. These localised plans are part of the problem. You can’t really meet national need by doffing a cap to very local concerns
Three out of 10 for making the link that this a joint effort; developers and local authorities deliver together, but while their budgets are slashed,local authorities need to protect and ring-fence planning fees to deliver a better planning service. Developers will pay the fees, provided the delivery is swifter. But what guarantees are there that the delivery of decisions will be quicker?
Five out of 10 for spotting the advantage of modular build. Now government needs to ensure that the proposed new modular-build factories get speedy planning decisions too.
Seven out of 10 for finally seeing the potential of institutional build to rent and the need for that build to rent across the country.
Nine out of 10 for grasping the nettle and talking about density and taller buildings. We have the designers and engineers and now we have the policy backing. But it remains unclear how many weeds will blight the Green Belt.
Finally, 10 out of 10 for getting the white paper out and published at last, and acknowledging there is a housing crisis caused by a number of governments that can only be solved by rent and buy, and a range of other tools. As ever, the first step is admitting there is a problem.
Al Watson is Head of Planning and Environment at international law firm Taylor Wessing