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Housing market broken, ministers admit ahead of White Paper

Ministers will admit England’s housing market is “broken” as they unveil new plans to build more affordable homes.

The government says 250,000 new homes are needed each year and has admitted it is lagging behind schedule.

The new housing strategy for England includes forcing councils to plan for their local housing needs and giving them powers to pressure developers to start building on land they own.

Labour accused the government of “seven years of failure” on housing.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid will set out the details of the housing White Paper in a statement to MPs.

Measures include:

  • Forcing councils to produce an up-to-date plan for housing demand
  • Expecting developers to avoid “low density” housing where land availability is short
  • Reducing the time allowed between planning permission and the start of building from three to two years
  • Using a £3bn fund to help smaller building firms challenge major developers, including support for off-site construction, where parts of buildings are assembled in a factory
  • A “lifetime ISA” to help first-time buyers save for a deposit
  • Maintaining protection for the green belt, which can only be built on “in exceptional circumstances”

So-called starter homes, championed by ex-PM David Cameron, will be aimed at “households that need them most” with incomes of less than £80,000 or £90,000 in London.

The government said there would be a change in focus from starter homes – which will be offered to first-time buyers at a discount – to “a wider range of affordable housing”.

Mr Javid will say: “Walk down your local high street today and there’s one sight you’re almost certain to see. Young people, faces pressed against the estate agent’s window, trying and failing to find a home they can afford.

“With prices continuing to skyrocket, if we don’t act now, a whole generation could be left behind. We need to do better, and that means tackling the failures at every point in the system.

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“The housing market in this country is broken and the solution means building many more houses in the places that people want to live.”

Ahead of the White Paper’s release, ministers promised a “change of tone” from previous Tory policy with a focus on people who are renting their homes.

This is expected to include minimum tenancy lengths in an attempt to offer renters more security and a drive to build more homes specifically for rent.

A change of focus from the “starter homes” championed by ex-PM David Cameron to “a wider range of affordable housing” is also expected.

On Sunday, Housing Minister Gavin Barwell admitted the government was behind schedule on its goal of building one million new homes in England by 2020 and said the latest figures on affordable homes built – which reached a 24-year low – were “embarrassing”.

Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey said: “The measures announced so far in Theresa May’s long-promised housing white paper are feeble beyond belief.

“After seven years of failure and 1,000 housing announcements, the housing crisis is getting worse not better.”


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