Housing & Planning Act 2016: Government Starter Homes Policy Finally Receives Royal Assent

Leading Planning Lawyers Feel Too Little And Too Late To Achieve Government Housing Targets

16.05.2016

Karen Roberts, Press Officer | 0207 400 8714

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 has just received Royal Assent (12 May) and although the final Act is yet to be published, it is clear that this is a significant victory for the Commons after weeks of arguments with the House of Lords.

The Act will introduce starter homes into the UK planning system for the first time. Starter homes will be a new form of affordable housing aimed at providing discounted units to first time buyers -with one in five new homes available at a 20% discount to first-time buyers.

Planning lawyers at Irwin Mitchell point out that this will be one of the largest changes to the affordable housing market for some time, and when combined with the changes to funding and to tax arrangements for registered providers, could have a significant impact upon how affordable housing is provided in the future. 

The provisions of the Act, which were incredibly contentious, appear to have survived more or less unscathed, although the exact detail will be coming forward through a series of statutory instruments and secondary regulations, which have yet to be published. 

Carl Dyer, Head of Planning at law firm Irwin Mitchell comments: "The Act is very much an encouraging step in the right direction. The Government appears finally to have recognised that the affordable housing regime has become effectively a tax on house building, and has taken a first step to address this.

"Hence the impassioned resistance in the House of Lords. 

"This measure will be a relief particularly for smaller house builders who are likely to be granted further exemptions from regulatory requirements when the Act is fully enforced. They can also hope for the small sites exception to be reinstated into planning policy after the Court of Appeal’s decision last week, upholding the government’s decision to introduce it." 

It is likely that this will not be the only shake-up to the planning system before the next General Election.  There is speculation that on Wednesday this week, we will see further legislation in the Queen's Speech designed further to free up the housing sector and encourage house builders to develop more quickly.

However, as Carl Dyer continued: "The Housing and Planning Act took significantly longer to pass through Parliament than had been initially hoped; and this delay means that on its own the Act is unlikely to achieve the house building targets already set by the current Government."*

*In September 2015 Brandon Lewis, Minister for Housing said the Government should target to build 1 million new homes by the end of the current Parliament. This would mean 200,000 a year. In 2014-2015 124,5000 new houses were completed.