Public Accounts Committee also raises worries about quality of new build homes
Influential watchdog MPs have warned that inherent problems with the nation’s planning system risk jeopardising the government’s plans to ramp up housebuilding to the 300,000-homes-a-year level.
A new report from members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) lack of a detailed implementation plan for raising new home delivery from the current level is a serious obstacle as well.
The PAC pointed to the gap between the historic average of 177,000 new homes a year delivered between 2005-06 and 2017-18 and the 300,000 target. It also said ministers had yet to give a “clear rationale” for the target.
Among their planning system concerns, MPs pointed to local authorities’ varying competence at identifying local housing needs and creating local plans, as well problems securing funding for vital infrastructure to support large-scale new housing.
But they said the housing ministry had to set out how it planned to step up housing delivery from its current level to the target.
MHCLG’s most recent statistics show 165,090 new-build homes were completed in the year to December 2018, although the different “net additional dwellings” figure – which includes houseboats and conversions – was 222,190 for 2017-18.
Committee chair Meg Hillier said the discrepancy between current delivery levels and the target placed a large question mark over the ministry’s ability to deliver.
“Progress against the government’s annual new house building target is way off track and currently shows scant chance of being achieved,” she said.
“The government has set itself the highly ambitious target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid 2020s even though there is no clear rationale for this figure and the ministry themselves say only 265,000 new homes a year are needed.
“Government needs to get a grip and set out a clear plan if it is not to jeopardise these ambitions.”
Hillier noted that poor performance by the Planning Inspectorate in terms of reviewing appeals had added to delays in new-home delivery, while there was a “collective failure” to ensure developers contributed fairly to the infrastructure costs that supported their schemes.
MPs also said they were concerned that MHCLG and councils were not doing enough to prevent poor build-quality of new homes and of office-to-residential conversions
They said MHCLG appeared to be “focusing on the quality and safety of high-rise residential buildings” after the Grenfell Tower fire.
“It does not have a specific programme to address concerns about the quality of new builds,” they said.
“It has some initiatives which aim to improve the quality of design of new homes, including revising the Department’s design guide, although these do not address the quality of the final build.”
MPs told MHCLG to set out how it will work with local authorities, developers, and other agencies on how they will prevent, penalise and compensate for poor residential build quality.