Sunak commits to 1 mn new homes promise


The PM made the promise ahead of a speech by housing and levelling up secretary Michael Gove on measures to slash red tape…reports Asian Lite News

Rishi Sunak has vowed his government will meet a Conservative manifesto pledge to build one million new homes before the end of this parliament.

The Prime Minister made the promise ahead of a speech by housing and levelling up secretary Michael Gove on measures to slash red tape on loft conversions and extensions.

It comes as right-leaning economists warned Chancellor Jeremy Hunt that a housebuilding shortfall this year risks snuffing out the UK’s fragile green shoots of economic growth.

Sunak says development will be focused on inner cities where the housing need is greatest, as opposed to “concreting over the countryside”. He said: “We need to keep going because we want more people to realise the dream of owning their own home.

“Our reforms will help make that a reality, by regenerating brownfield land, streamlining the planning process and helping homeowners to renovate and extend their houses.”

Gove will make a speech outlining his new policies today, Monday 24 July, which are set to make it easier to convert larger shops and offices into new homes; build extensions and convert lofts into accommodation; plus cut red tape on barn and agricultural building conversions.

The measures are a “significant package” intended to “support housebuilding in the right places and boost growth”, the government said.

However, analysts from the right-leaning think tank the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) have warned that already downbeat predictions on the housebuilding share of GDP by the Office for Budget Responsibility “may not be pessimistic enough” and predicted shortfall could extinguish blossoming growth.

Julian Jessop, a fellow at the IEA, said only 37,750 builds were started in England in Q1 of 2023 and “a fall in output will have huge implications for UK plc”.

Gove said: “Most people agree that we need to build more homes – the question is how we go about it.

“We have set out a plan today to build the right homes in the right places where there is community support. We’re putting the resources behind it to help make this vision a reality.”

Further measures include a £24m delivery fund to clear planning backlogs; launching an expert ‘super squad’; and asking developers to contribute more through fees.

Communities will be given more of a say via a newly created ‘Office for Place’. A consultation on reforming local plans to better engage residents will also be carried out.

Labour’s shadow levelling up and housing secretary, Lisa Nandy, said: “Britain desperately needs more homes, but another review is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed to fix the housing crisis.

“We don’t need more reviews or press releases, we need bold action to get Britain building. That’s why Labour has set out plans to reform the planning system to build the homes we need. We will restore housing targets, reform compulsory purchase rules and take the tough choices to back the builders, not the blockers.”

The housing plan is the latest attempt by Sunak to reduce the opposition Labour Party’s large poll lead after an unexpected victory in a so-called by-election just outside central London on Friday offered him some breathing space.

In June, British house building at the sharpest pace in more than 14 years apart from two months early in the COVID-19 pandemic, as higher borrowing costs dampened demand and weighed on the broader construction sector, a survey said this month.

Earlier this month, a parliamentary committee said the government was on track to deliver 1 million new homes but was not forecast to deliver another promise to build 300,000 net new homes per year by the mid-2020s, largely because of uncertainty over planning policy reform.

To unblock bottlenecks in the planning system, Gove will announce an intention to invest £24m in a planning skills delivery fund. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, the housing secretary said the proposals would start with Cambridge before spurring the creation of new homes in cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

Labour accused Gove and Sunak of exacerbating the housing crisis.

Lisa Nandy, the shadow housing secretary, said it had “gone from bad to worse on [the Conservatives’] watch” and that housebuilding was on course to hit its lowest rate since the second world war. She promised Labour would restore housing targets, change compulsory purchase rules and “take the tough choices to back the builders, not the blockers”.

Shaun Davies, the chair of the Local Government Association, said new homes were much needed but such places as shops, offices and barns were not always suitable for conversion.

“Further expanding permitted development rights risks creating poor quality residential environments that negatively impact people’s health and wellbeing, as well as a lack of affordable housing or suitable infrastructure,” he said.

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