Everything that you need to know about this week's housing white paper

 
Tracey Boles
Regeneration Project For The Residential Streets Of Liverpool
Source: Getty

The government is set to reveal its long-awaited housing white paper this week after a series of delays.

Q: Why do we need a housing white paper?

A: There is a mismatch between supply and demand in the housing market which has caused prices to rise to levels that are unaffordable for many. Meanwhile, the population carries on growing.

With this in mind, the government has set itself a target of building 1m homes by 2020. The housing white paper is designed to help meet this target with a range of reforms, some of them controversial.

Q: What will it say?

A: Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, is expected to force councils in areas with high demand for housing to come up with ambitious building targets.

The white paper is also expected to target inner city sites close to transport hubs for more residential development. Railway station car parks could be moved underground to make space for new homes.

Height restrictions on buildings to prevent them blocking light are tipped to be relaxed. This will allow houses as high as the existing tallest property on their block to be built without requiring special planning permission.

Sites could be reserved for prefabricated buildings which can be erected more quickly.

There could be a clampdown on land-banking, the practice by which developers sit on sites with a view to selling smaller plots off at a profit instead of developing them. Such developers may see planning permission withdrawn.

Ministers also want rules to ensure developers provide a proportion of new homes for affordable rent.

Q: Why has the white paper been delayed?

A: The new blueprint was due out last year but tensions are understood to have erupted between Javid, who is pushing for an accelerated housebuilding schedule, and Prime Minster Theresa May, who wanted more detail of how the proposals would work and was wary of a Tory revolt.

A testbed has been planned for 6,000 new homes on a green belt site in Birmingham. The decision horrified local Sutton Coldfield MP Andrew Mitchell who has warned Javid over potential conflict in the party over the housing reforms.

Q: What kind of reception is awaiting the white paper?

A: Should the reforms herald reduced protection of the green belt, the fiercest opposition may come from the back benches and grassroots Tories.

In May’s own constituency of Maidenhead, there is a fight brewing over plans for 86 per cent of new homes to be built on green belt land.

At least Nimbyism appears to be on the wane. According to a study by the National Housing Federation, almost twice as many people in England are in favour of building in their local area than was the case in 2010. Support nearly doubled to 57 per cent in 2016. In a bid to sweeten the pill, woodland areas could be given special protection.

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