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Government Plans Massive House Building Programme

A Green Paper is expected to reveal how the Government plans to ease Britain’s property problems. It could be the most radical attempt to influence the housing industry since the building boom of the ‘60s.

The Paper should see a commitment to the building of three million new homes by 2020. Many of these are expected to be built in the South East of England, and the idea is to sell them with shared equity schemes which aim to help first-time buyers get onto the property ladder.

new buildEach year to 2010 there should be 70,000 more affordable homes and 45,000 social homes constructed, which represents a 50% increase in current building levels.

Councils will receive positive and negative incentives. Land and extra resources will be released to those councils that build the most houses, but any council failing to identify developments for at least five years will suffer penalties. Developers who do not deliver their agreed goals will be dealt with robustly, and local authorities who deny planning permission for housing applications must come up with alternative sites, or face the prospect of being over-ruled.

Recently the Government indicated that building would have to proceed at the expense of green-belt land and it seems they are following through their comments. Councils will fear that they will be unable to fight plans for major developments and yet not have the infrastructure in place to support the required number of new households. The Government has come under fire for its housing plans for the South and the Midlands, and MPs have been accused of not coming up with plans for transport, education and health facilities which will be needed if more homes are built. These areas of the country are already bursting at the seams and it is a mystery how so many new households can be accommodated.

The Green Paper is expected to look for significant increases in home for shared ownership and shared equity schemes designed to assist young people onto the property ladder.

Funding will also be made available for additional social rented homes, many to be provided by housing associations and others by councils. If local authorities then sell on such homes, they will be able to reinvest proceeds into new properties.

The Government is determined to increase the house-building programme and wants two million new homes to be ready by 2016, and has a target of three million for 2020. This will include at least five eco-towns each with 100,000 homes, another 29 growth points of 100,000 homes each and another ten growth points of 50,000 homes. Spending is expected to be £6.5bn on social housing and no less than £8bn on affordable hopme over the next three years alone.

Housing minister Yvette Cooper has said that recent floods will not prevent future building on flood plains. Rules would be tightened to prevent building on “high risk” flood areas, but there could be millions of new homes on flood plains, she said.

Examples of flood plains are the City of York and Downing Street and no one would consider denying house building in areas like that, Ms Cooper said. Good flood defences, such as the Thames Barrier have to be taken into account.

Tom Smith
2nd August 2007

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