Government announce new flagship housing zones

19 January 2015, Blog

On 8th January, the Government announced a shortlist of 29 areas outside of London that are bidding to become one of ten new flagship housing zones in the country. The shortlisted areas will now go through an assessment process which will include looking for value for money and commitment to delivering high quality homes quickly.

The shortlist forms part of the Government’s plans to meet the increasing housing need and provide new homes outside the capital. The initiative will also increase the delivery of new homes to brownfield sites, with the ten zones that are finally chosen having the chance to build homes for local communities – whilst continuing to protect the green belt. Successful bidders will receive a share of the funding for infrastructure and land remediation on their sites, as well as access to cheaper borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board.

The initiative follows Boris Johnson’s £400million housing zone scheme, aiming to create 20 new zones in London. The Mayor’s Housing Strategy, formerly adopted in October 2014, first introduced the idea of Housing Zones to accelerate housing delivery in areas with high development potential.

Most of the zones are expected to be large enough for between 750 and 2,000 homes, but larger schemes may be considered. The Government estimates that across the country there is enough brownfield land to provide up to 200,000 new homes. Ministers expect to see planning permissions covering 90% of this land to be in place by 2020.

Andy Rose, Houses and Communities Agency Chief Executive said: “Housing Zones are an opportunity to unlock redundant brownfield land with the potential to provide viable housing developments.

Official statistics now show that the level of green belt development is at its lowest rate since modern records began in 1989. But the Government wants to further decrease this figure. Since 2010, the Government has actively sought to ensure brownfield land is prioritised for new housing development and has abolished regional strategies – which critics claimed earmarked green belt land for new development. The Government has also looked to reuse empty and underused buildings in response to pressure to further protect green belt land.

Alex Watson, Account Executive at JBP, gives his insight on what the announcement could mean in the lead up to the election:

Housing will be on the tip of every MP and PPC’s tongue as we creep closer and closer to the election. Met with positivity by Conservatives but dismissed by Labour, the housing zones announcement has divided opinion. It feeds into the central political debate around housing – the lack of supply. Labour has always been very critical of how slow the current Government has been to build new homes. Lest we forget, it was a Labour Government that originally set the target of 240,000 homes to be built per year by 2016. Yet no Government has even got close to this figure. It seems that Labour set their successors an unreachable target, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Labour would have succeeded.

It will certainly be a challenge for Local Authorities to meet the demands of the initiative and to stick to the funding that is available. The initiative asks a lot and expects much. Expect to see the most affluent areas of the United Kingdom come out overall winners.

Many of the schemes are bound to attract opposition from local residents who do not want housing estates on their doorstep. But as the Government and the Opposition call for more homes, the inevitable tension around where they should be located is set to run and run.

JBP Staff Member

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