0:05 AM, 7th December 2022, About A year ago
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has been forced to drop mandatory housebuilding targets in a bid to see off a backbench rebellion from Tory MPs.
That would see demand remaining strong for the private rented sector (PRS) and Labour says the move shows the Prime Minister is ‘weak’.
The move follows a threat from up to 100 Tory MPs that would force the government to end a target of building 300,000 homes every year in England.
Now, this target will be ‘advisory’ and local authorities can build fewer homes if they can prove that reaching a housebuilding target would change significantly an ‘area’s character’.
The move led the levelling up secretary, Michael Gove, to confirm that the Levelling Up Bill currently going through Parliament will now be amended to remove a mandatory housebuilding target for local authorities.
He has written to Tory MPs to confirm that the watered-down housebuilding target has now been confirmed by the government.
Mr Gove said: “There is no truly objective way of calculating how many new homes are needed in an area but the plan-making process for housing has to start with a number.”
Essentially, the change will see the government determining a starting point for the number of houses to be built but local authorities can propose building fewer homes if the target number would need to be built at a density that would change the area’s character.
Mr Gove has also highlighted that housebuilding targets will remain as an important part of the planning process, but the government will now consult on how they can improve targets that take into account local housing density.
Labour’s Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Levelling Up Secretary, said: “If this is true, it would be unconscionable in the middle of a housing crisis.
“We offered Labour votes to defeat the rebels, but Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove seem to have chosen party before country.
“This is so weak.”
Last week, the Centre for Cities think tank published a report highlighting that the UK’s ‘chronic’ housing shortage is ‘one of the biggest challenges the country faces’.
The report argues that the country should not be having a national housing crisis but lots of ‘localised housing crises’ which would be in the most economically successful towns and cities.
James Forrester, the managing director of Stripe Property Group, said: “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.”
He added: “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.”
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