21 July, 2021
Chaired by Baroness Neville-Wolfe, the new House of Lords Built Environment Committee launched its inquiry on 6th July 2021 into the demand for housing in the UK and how to overcome barriers to meeting this demand. The Conversative Manifesto published in 2019 included a commitment to continue with their progress towards the target of 300,000 homes a year by mid-2020s and to see at least a million more homes built, of all tenures, over the next parliament in areas that need them. This new inquiry will be looking at the government's pledge and whether this target accurately reflects current and future housing demand and if it is in fact achievable. To assist the Committee, there has been a call for evidence from a broad a range of people as possible with a view on housing and submissions are welcome until Friday 10th September 2021 to answer the following questions: -
What social and demographic factors shape housing demand in the UK?
How might an ageing population and trend in household formation and immigration affect housing demand?
What are the expected future trends in housing demand?
What is the balance of demand for new housing between private ownership, privately rent homes and social housing?
Is the construction sector able to deliver the UK's housing demand and what barriers are they facing?
How can the planning system be shaped to meet housing demand?
How does the government interact with Local Authorities to deliver more homes?
Demand for different types of housing will have shifted dramatically over the last 18 months as a result of the pandemic and it will be interesting to see how this has also shaped the housing demand and trends in the housing market. The rise in unemployment could lead to an increase in those seeking social housing. However, on the other hand there has been a boost in the housing market of those moving homes due to the stamp duty holiday and people wanting to move to more rural locations for bigger homes as a consequence of flexible remote working. It is very much still a volatile situation as we see the end to the stamp duty holiday and in September the end to the furlough scheme, both of which could affect housing demand. This may, however, be softened by the introduction of the new model shared ownership lease where initial share percentage has been reduced to 10% so that shared ownership has become an option available to more people and to help those onto the property ladder.
Baroness Neville-Wolfe commented on the projected rise in the number of homes being built as being "unsustainable and damaging to society unless the corresponding need is met. Meeting this demand will be a question of numbers, but also balancing where and what kind of building people want to live in". The Baroness also expressed her hope that the work of the committee will influence the debates on the forthcoming Building Safety Bill and Planning Bill.
The Planning Bill, set to come before parliament in autumn, has already faced opposition and criticism that it will turn the planning process into a free for all, as it is set to remove planning officers' ability to assess applications on a case-by-case basis. In August, the government recommended that a traffic light system of zone planning, meaning that some areas will be granted automatic initial approval. In addition, the introduction of a new infrastructure levy has been proposed to replace the need for S106 Agreements. Whilst the Committee are keen to look at ways to remove barriers to meet housing demand, the question is whether the planning reforms will meet the different housing needs and how changes to S106 Agreements will affect the availability of affordable housing. The Committee will be scrutinising this Planning Bill during the first inquiry.
The inquiry will also be looking at skills shortages and what is needed, not just with frontline construction workers, but also during the planning process, in digital construction and to deliver environmentally sustainable housing including modular house building innovations.
To contribute and submit your views in relation to any of the questions you can make a submission via the following link Call for Evidence - Committees - UK Parliament.
For more information contact Shauna Helyer in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 0333 207 1130. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.