The housing crisis in England can be resolved without building on “large tracts” of greenbelt land, the housing minister has said, as the government prepares to outline plans for one million new homes by 2020.
The long-awaited housing white paper, to be published tomorrow (Tuesday, February 7), is expected to signal a shift from emphasising home-owning and right-to-buy properties to affordable homes to rent.
The document will include measures to encourage “build to rent” developers and to ensure more secure longer-term tenancies are more widely available in the private sector, it is anticipated.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Housing Minister Gavin Barwell acknowledged rising costs meant many people could no longer afford to buy homes.
Mr Barwell (pictured above), MP for Croydon Central, also said the white paper – a policy document setting out government proposals for future legislation – would represent a “change of tone” from past Conservative housing policy.
"Housing has become more and more unaffordable for people who are trying to buy or trying to rent because governments for 30 or 40 years have not built enough homes," he told ITV’s Peston on Sunday.
"Absolutely we want to be a Government that helps people that are working hard to get on to the housing ladder, but if you are going to have a country that works for everyone you have to have something to say to people that want to rent a home as well."
Mr Barwell acknowledged the housing shortage could only be resolved by building more homes, but he strongly denied the government was planning to relax controls on greenbelt land to do so.
“There is no need to take huge tracts of land out of the green belt to solve the housing crisis," he said.
Pic credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire
But he failed to reassure Conservative critics, including Andrew Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield, who said large numbers of homes had already been approved for greenbelt land in the West Midlands without any objection from the government.
He told Peston on Sunday: "We have seen in Birmingham a monstrous plan put forward by the Labour council to build 6,000 on our treasured green belt and it has been waved through by ministers.”
Other expected proposals in the white paper include encouraging local authorities to plan "proactively" for more build-to-rent developments, while making it easier for developers to offer affordable private rentals instead of other forms of affordable housing.
It will say such schemes should offer "family-friendly" tenancies of three years or longer, providing greater security for families with children while confirming the previously announced ban on letting agent fees for new tenants.
In order to speed up the pace of building, developers will be warned that they risk being stripped of their planning permission for a site if they do not get on and use it.
Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey said the white paper plans were "disappointing" at a time when affordable housebuilding had fallen to its lowest level in 24 years.
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