Chaos behind the scenes as white paper on housing gets rewritten

Posted: 7/2/2017

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The Government’s long-awaited white paper on housing has been put back yet again, amid speculation of disagreement among ministers and fears of a backlash.

Publication had been expected towards the tail end of last year but communities secretary Sajid Javid then said it was “due to be published in January”.

Amid rumours that it could now be published on February 8 or as late as March, the Department for Communities and Local Government has only said that it will appear “shortly”.

Last March, then Chancellor George Osborne said there would be a call for evidence into speeding up and improving the house buying process “shortly”.

This has still not appeared.

The consultation on the ban on letting agents fees in Engalnd was supposed to be in the New Year, but will now appear in March/April – not most people’s idea of the New Year.

The white paper on housing has, it is rumoured, been sent back for wholesale rewriting after it contained proposals to loosen restrictions on building on some land in the Green Belt – which the Tories pledged to protect in their manifesto.

It is speculated that the paper will also set out to get councils to increase house building targets in their districts.

However, this could prove tricky: many MPs, including Theresa May, are under pressure from their constituents to preserve the countryside, while a large number of Tory MPs represent rural constituencies.

The document is expected to lay out the Government’s overall housing strategy – but so far, say critics, it doesn’t seem to have one.

Meanwhile, as the Government wrestles with house building numbers, the Chartered Institute of Housing has warned that nearly 250,000 of the country’s cheapest homes to rent will be lost from the lettings stock within the next three years.

The CIH says that homes available for social rent, owned by local authorities and housing associations, will either vanish completely off the rental stock because they will be sold under Right to Buy, or will no longer be affordable because their owners will up the rents.

Terrie Alafat, chief executive at CIH, said: “The loss of so many of these types of homes is extremely worrying at a time we need more not fewer.

“It is positive that the Government has announced new investment in housing in recent months, but many of the homes which will be funded will still be out of reach to many people.”

She said that over the last four years there has already been a “very significant” decline in the number of homes at social rent.

Alafat said: “If the Government really wants to solve our housing crisis it must recognise that building more homes at genuinely affordable rents will be crucial to help those who need housing the most.

“We are urging it to consider how, at the very least, it can prevent this decline. We should be seeing an increase in numbers, not a significant decline.”

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