Agents have expressed their anger at the government effectively scrapping any meaningful house building targets.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove scrapped the mandatory targets in a letter to Conservative backbenchers last week. Instead he said the objective of 300,000 homes a year by the middle of this decade would be “advisory” with local councils told they could reject housebuilding schemes for a range of reasons.
Timothy Douglas, head of policy and campaigns at Propertymark, says: “The house building targets are a long-standing commitment and it’s worrying to see these being backtracked on. Whilst the UK government has been unable to deliver them, the answer is to address the issues rather than step back.
“The country is in desperate need of more homes across all tenures, and the current targets not having been met successively actually puts the number of homes needed in a greater deficit than appears on the surface.”
Those sentiments are echoed by Tim Hyatt, head of residential at Knight Frank, who comments: “Scrapping mandatory housebuilding targets will act as a real blow to housing delivery nationwide. These targets played a key role in holding local authorities to account. At a time when the country needs new, high quality homes more than ever, removing mandatory housing targets is a step in the wrong direction. For many years now housing delivery levels have been too low; by removing them it is likely to compound the issue further.
“Reforms to the planning system, and making it easier for housebuilders to bring forward land for development should be the government’s focus. With the UK heading into recession, the housing market needs to be supported and protected, and the construction sector needs to be encouraged to carry on building – recognising its significant contribution to receipts for the exchequer, attracting inward investment and its role as a major employer and jobs creator.”
And the managing director of Stripe Property Group, estate agent James Forrester, states: “This is astonishingly negligent on the part of the government. House building has languished below the required 300,000 annual number since the 1950’s and that’s even with the focus and accountability of local authority facing targets. To remove those targets is to allow the UK’s requirement to dangle in the wind and we now have even less chance as a nation of providing adequate dwelling numbers. It’s a dumb move”.
In a press release, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities says the targets will now become a "starting point" for development, with new flexibilities to "reflect local circumstances".
Until now these targets, calculated using a government formula, had to be incorporated into councils' 15-year housebuilding plans, with councils that failed to incorporate them having their powers to block development restricted.
Labour's shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy says the government scrapping ’of meaningful housing targets is "unconscionable in the middle of a housing crisis" and demonstrates that the government is weak.