December 30, 2016 By FTI Consulting
Tackling the housing crisis is a core part of the May government’s plan to help the Just About Managings ‘JAMs.’ and the anticipated publication of the Housing White Paper in late January is due to outline a roadmap for exactly how this will be done throughout 2017 and beyond.
Building on commitments made in November’s Autumn Statement, the landmark document is set to focus on supply-side issues, including the availability of land in the right places, incentivising and speeding up development, and encouraging a more diverse housing market that includes an increased number of rental and shared ownership properties. Details on how government plans to invest the £7.2 billion it has committed to housing through initiatives such as the Housing Infrastructure Fund and ‘accelerated construction’ pilot will also be revealed.
Delays to the White Paper’s release are understood to be as a result of a failure to reach cross-government agreement on its contents, most notably around the contentious issue of building on the green belt. The compromise is likely to be that government will call in planning decisions when constituency MPs lobby them to do so. Other areas remaining under close consideration are how government can encourage more pension funds to invest in the development of new housing, and ways to ensure those on lower incomes are able to access mortgages.
The government’s intention is not, however, for the White Paper to serve as a top-down imposition of a whole range of measures – the aim is to supply tools for local areas to use as they see fit. Ever-more important in doing this will be established and emerging city deals, most notably the Greater Manchester Combined Authority which is due to publish its Spatial Framework in 2017 outlining land ripe for development and the infrastructure required across its ten local authority areas.
Key to the success of such initiatives in Manchester and beyond in 2017 will be the seamless transition from interim to directly elected mayors in some of England’s biggest cities in May. Armed with the largest personal mandates in politics after Sadiq Khan’s in London, Mayors will need to quickly iron out the specifics of their roles and how to effectively work in partnership with council leaders and established bodies. This in addition to scrutiny from many in Westminster – most notably, the Public Accounts Committee – that feels government has adopted a ‘high-risk’ strategy with devolution, with insufficient levels of scrutiny and accountability in place.