THE Government’s target to deliver 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s is in “jeopardy” and may not be achieved because of a lack of planning and support, says a committee of MPs.
In a new report, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of MPs said the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) lacks the necessary detailed plan to deliver such an “ambitious” target. However, “Inherent problems” in the planning system undermine capacity to deliver.
Furthermore, councils are struggling to provide local plans to show how many homes, where and what types are needed in their areas, with fewer than half have an up to date local plan. The MHCLG, despite wanting a ‘plan-led system’ is reluctant to take action, the report says.
“Progress against the government’s annual new house building target is way off track and currently shows scant chance of being achieved,” said Meg Hillier MP, the committee’s chair.
“The Government has set itself the highly ambitious target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s — levels not seen since World War two — 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. Poor performance by the Planning Inspectorate in reviewing appeals has also added to delays. There is also a collective failure to ensure developers contribute fairly for infrastructure.”
The report’s key points include:
- The ministry has a highly ambitious target to deliver 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s but does not have detailed projections or plans on how it will achieve this
- Fewer than half of local authorities have an up-to-date local plan in place, despite the ministry stressing the importance of a ‘plan-led system’ for development
- The Planning Inspectorate’s performance is poor and detracts from efforts to deliver 300,000 new homes a year
- The system to get contributions from developers to the cost of infrastructure is not working effectively, and too often favours developers at the expense of local communities
- MHCLG acknowledges that it will need to sustain and increase the numbers of affordable housing built to help it achieve the target of 300,000 new homes but cannot say how many and what types of affordable homes are needed
- There is a concern that the MHCLG and local authorities are not doing enough to prevent poor build quality of new homes
Responding to the report, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesperson, Councillor Martin Tett, said: “The last time the country built more than 300,000 homes a year was 1977/78, when councils built 44% of them. Latest figures show councils were only able to build 2,000 homes last year – the highest level since 1992 – but need to be able to do so much more. To help end the housing crisis, we need to kick-start a genuine renaissance in council house building.
“While it was good the Government accepted our call to scrap the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap, it now needs to go further in the Spending Review by devolving Right to Buy so councils retain 100 per cent of their receipts and can set discounts locally, and allowing councils to set their own planning fees.
“The planning system is not a barrier to housebuilding – with councils approving nine in 10 applications, and hundreds of thousands of homes given planning permission but yet to be built.
“Councils are committed to building the homes that communities need and that are appropriate for the local environment. Local plans underpin the local democratic planning process and involve significant engagement and building of trust with a range of local partners and the community. However, they can be difficult and expensive to establish.
“Government needs to make it easier for councils to get up-to-date plans in place, by giving them sufficient funding and resources, and scrapping the policies, including permitted development rights, which allow developers to ignore community needs and undermine local plans.”