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Housing bill's bumpy ride puts government target at risk

With the Planning and Housing Bill passing quickly through the House of Commons with minimal fuss, government ministers could be forgiven for feeling rather confident about how easily the bill might pass through the Lords.

A smooth passage through the House of Lords would have been ideal for secretary of state Greg Clark, as it would have partly relieved the ever-mounting pressure of delivering the government’s ambitious ‘housing crusade’ commitment of one million new homes by the 2020 election.

“We have already seen the Starter Homes provisions being significantly watered down”

However, despite these positive signs, the bill is having a very bumpy ride through the House of Lords.

Since the Easter recess, we have already seen the Starter Homes provisions, the government’s flagship housing initiative which aims to deliver 200,000 of the one million new homes by 2020, being significantly watered down.

Clearly, planning minister Brandon Lewis’s publication of the proposed Starter Homes regulations technical consultation during the recent recess did little to address concerns and dampen criticism of the Starter Homes provisions in the bill.

More defeats to come?

After already claiming the Starter Homes scalp, Monday saw the Lords turn its attention to watering down other planning aspects of the bill.

“We wait to see if the government’s run of defeats in this area continues”

The latest marshalled list of amendments includes a proposal to give local councils greater power to resist prior applications made under the office-to-residential prior approval process.

We wait to see if the government’s run of defeats in this area continues. If it does, the warning bells are only going to ring louder in ministers’ ears.

Although the final content and future of the bill remain somewhat uncertain, what is becoming increasingly clear is that the longer the House of Lords delays the granting of royal assent, the more challenging the target of building one million new homes will become.

With only four years left before the next election, 50,000 Starter Homes per annum will need to be delivered to achieve the government’s 2020 target.

Achieving this will be dependent on significantly increased housing completions overall, at a level not seen since the late 1970s.

We believe this will require direct intervention by, among others, the Homes and Communities Agency.

Dominick Veasey is a associate director at Nexus Planning

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