Sometimes you get a late invitation that requires you to be up at 4.30am that you just can’t refuse! Yesterday, I had the privilege of going down to London to hear Michael Gove’s Announcement on Housing.
Whilst a 4.30am start is quite a shock to the system, I have to say it was worth it, and it was a first for me attending a big government policy announcement.
My key take away is that the government finally have a long term plan on housing. It is positive to see that housing is back on the agenda and the government committed to building more homes.
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove said the government’s long-term plan covers ownership, leasehold reform, decency, beauty, simplifying planning procedures, expanding planning capacity, and regenerating and reviving our inner cities. For me the main announcements were the need to build more homes, the need to densify our cities, the need to build better quality homes and the need for investment in local authority planning departments so much needed housing applications are dealt with promptly
Densification of our cities
Michael Gove says the government's main focus will be on housing developments in the UK's major cities.
He says the "biggest efforts" will be "in the hearts of our cities" as this is where the demand for housing is greatest.
The focus will be on brownfield development rather than greenfield in a "move away from the land-hungry destruction of habitats". We will not concreate our countryside (or where we Tory MP’s live).
While the speech seemed to heavily emphasize London, Cambridge was also mentioned quite prominently. The plan includes regenerating 20 towns and cities across England, with a focus on raising productivity in the Midlands and the North of England.
Mr Gove stated that “the country will only succeed if our other cities also secure the investment needed to raise their productivity faster. That is why, in our programme of 20 city-centre renewals, the Midlands, and particularly the North of England, are our future focus”.
Gove assured that the government would meet the manifesto target of delivering 1 million new homes during this Parliament, but he acknowledged the likelihood of falling short of the 300,000 homes by 2025.
Planning Re-skill not reform quite yet
It was encouraging to see steps being taken to unblock bottlenecks in the planning system, with funding allocated to a planning skills delivery fund, although a magic wand maybe needed to conjure up all those people cueing to become a town planner! I know that the planning system figures large in some of our members’ concerns and it has been highlighted as a big issue in terms of establishing surety of pipeline for offsite manufacturers and developers.
Another 13.5 million will go to establish a new “super squad” of leading planners and experts to unblock major housing developments. It sounds like an exciting role for someone
And there will be an Increase to the amount developers pay in planning fees, to ensure all planning departments are better resourced.
Future Homes Standard
The government has announced its plans for new build homes, with a rollout of new design codes. Additionally, there will be a consultation on a universal Future Homes Standard later this year. These initiatives aim to set higher standards for design, sustainability, and comfort in all new homes. The government's vision is to create a better future for housing in the UK, with a focus on ensuring that new homes are comfortable, energy-efficient, and well-designed for all homeowners. This is something that we need as a society and is definitely high on the priorities of the offsite sector.
Overall, the combination of new design codes and the Future Homes Standard consultation is likely to create opportunities for the expansion and adoption of MMC in the housing sector, supporting the development of more sustainable, energy-efficient, and comfortable homes.
However, there remain concerns about the pressing need for 90,000 social homes, as specific plans to address this issue were not clearly discussed. While the focus is on
building 50,000 homes in Cambridge, the inadequate number of social homes built last year was not addressed.
This situation raises questions about the existence of a concrete plan to urgently deliver the essential social homes and the necessary infrastructure to support them.
If I had a key request from yesterday, one would be for a more coherent and collaborative effort across various government departments to effectively address social infrastructure needs.
It is crucial to enable the rapid delivery of social and genuinely affordable homes.
Furthermore, there should be further emphasis on raising the quality standards of our newly built homes to ensure comfortable and sustainable living conditions for all. It is something many of our members are passionate about and the offsite sector stands ready to help the government deliver more well designed and built, high quality, environmentally efficient homes that the country needs.
The full speech can be read here - https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/long-term-plan-for-housing-secretary-of-states-speech