Housing minister Gavin Barwell says government will entice new entrants into the housing market

Councils could get powers to seize land from housebuilders failing to build on “stalled” sites, under proposals unveiled in the government’s housing white paper.

The extension of compulsory purchase powers to private developers’ unused sites is one of a number of proposals designed to fix what the government called Britain’s “broken” housing market.

Speaking to Building, housing minister Gavin Barwell (pictured) said the government would encourage new players to enter the housing market to help it meet its target of building one million homes this parliament to 2020.

He said: “In a year’s time we will begin to see an improvement. The more diversification we get, the better.

“We are absolutely interested in bringing new players into the market. Major players will tell you that they don’t have the capacity to do it on their own.”

Under the compulsory purchase plan land seized would be auctioned off to other builders, with the proceeds going towards paying back the original developer.

The policy echoes Labour’s controversial “use it or lose it” policy that was first proposed by Ed Miliband in 2013.

Housebuilders were also targeted with measures that would require them to provide up-front information about the scale and timing of developments, while councils would be able to consider firms’ past build-out records on sites when granting planning permission. The period of time granted to implement a planning approval could also be shortened from three to two years.

Councils were also put under pressure with plans to force them to publish their local housing needs and to account for any shortfall if the numbers were not being met.

The requirement for developers to build starter homes - discounted homes for sale to first-time buyers - was radically watered down in the white paper.

The previous Conservative government led by David Cameron had outlined plans to require 20% of all housing schemes to be starter homes, but the white paper instead said 10% of all developments should merely be “affordable”, with starter homes classed as affordable alongside other options including affordable and social rent.

The government also confirmed it would try to secure more institutional investment for build to rent, promote modular construction through the Homes and Communities Agency’s £3bn home building fund and announced a “lifetime ISA” to help first-time buyers save for a deposit. It also maintainted protection for the green belt, which can only be built on “in exceptional circumstances”.

The Homes and Communities Agency will be relaunched as ‘Homes England’.

Launching the white paper in the Commons, communities secretary Sajid Javid told MPs that while UK housebuilding had increased to 190,000 completions last year, this needed to increase significantly to 225,000 to 275,000 homes a year to meet demand.

He said: “For far too long, we have not built enough houses… We have to build more of the right houses in the right places, starting right now.”

Industry reaction

“We have called for the “one size fits all” approach to housing to be ditched, and are glad to see a move to building the right homes in the right places that fit the actual needs of people and communities.”

Rhian Kelly, infrastructure director at the CBI

“The government has rightly recognised the role that councils can play in delivering new homes, and it is about time that they were given the powers to do so – but the government must also give them the resources they need.”

Mark Robinson, chief executive at Scape Group

“We welcome the continued government focus on tackling the housing shortage and we’ll support any policies aimed at speeding up the planning system and bringing forward more land for new homes – particularly in areas of high demand.”

David Thomas, chief executive at Barratt

“Blaming developers for inactivity and cash-strapped local authorities for delay to date is somewhat disingenuous when the government might have bought its own solutions to the table.”

Al Watson, head of planning and environment at Taylor Wessing

“There is much that is good and sensible in the White Paper so let’s use it as a launch pad for a real step change in delivery.”

Brian Berry, chief executive at Federation of Master Builders

“We are fully behind the government’s drive to encourage the construction of modular homes. If you look at how car manufacturing has advanced since the 1950s, it is startling how little innovation we have seen in construction.”

Phil Wade, operations director at First Base