The widely anticipated ‘’Levelling Up White Paper’’ was published at the beginning of February by the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities led by Michael Gove, the recently appointed Secretary of State for the department. The White Paper is an ambitious, detailed and broad paper that seeks to set out a plan for transforming the UK by spreading opportunity and prosperity. As you would imagine housing is one of a number of key focuses within the paper, and for the benefit of those working within the housing sector, we have set out below a number of the housing elements.
Improving housing quality
Poor housing quality is an issue across the UK which has seen a great deal of press coverage in the past year focussing on rogue landlords and even housing associations and local authorities who have faced challenges managing housing stock. The Government’s ambition is for the number of ‘non-decent’ rented homes to have fallen by 50% by 2030 but details as to how this will be achieved are not set out in full. The white paper doesn’t go into great detail on how it intends to solve the issue, but it does discuss a number of initiatives that it hopes to implement this year which include:
- releasing a new white paper in spring setting out its support for those in the private rented sector including ending so called ‘no fault’ evictions otherwise known as Section 21 evictions. The Government is also set to review the ‘decent homes standard’ and introduce a National Landlord Register, taking tougher action on rogue landlords
- proposals for poor energy efficiency by targeting retrofit funding within the worst performing energy efficient homes, and highlights £2.2bn of funding available to help improve energy efficiency and lower energy bills
- £2bn of investment to help tackle homelessness and rough sleeping over the next three years in an effort to end rough sleeping.
The white paper emphasises the social disparities found in different areas of the UK, often exacerbated by a lack of regeneration and underdevelopment in those areas that need it most. The previous 80/20 funding rule that focussed investment in Greater London is being scrapped with a greater emphasis on devolution giving more investment to those areas of the country that are underfunded. The 80/20 rule historically targeted 80% of housing funds at areas of the lowest housing affordability which led to an under provision of funding outside of London and the South East. A move away from this will provide greater investment to those areas of the UK where regeneration is needed. The Government will ask Homes England to play a greater role in supporting mayors and local government to drive regional ambitions for new affordable housing and regeneration in local areas.
Making homeownership a reality
The Government’s drive to increase homeownership is certainly not a new policy initiative but is once again a goal reasserted within the white paper. The paper highlights the government’s ambition to deliver 300,000 new homes per year in England by the mid 2020s and plans to achieve this by making improvements to the planning system and giving councils more tools to assist in the regeneration of land. The goal is that by 2030 renters will have a secure path to homeownership with the number of first time-buyers increasing in all areas of the UK. The paper outlines the Government’s commitment to housing reiterating its £11.5bn Affordable Homes Programme that will deliver up to 180,000 affordable homes with 75% of these delivered outside London, and its £1.8bn investment in brownfield and infrastructure projects announced at the 2021 spending review to unlock the delivery of an additional 160,000 homes across England.
It’s clear from the white paper that housing is going to take a central role in the Government’s plans to end social and economic disparity across the UK and the paper does speak in detail about future plans to increase investment and bring in legislation to improve housing quality and increase regeneration.
The document is welcome news for the housing sector, especially for those regions in the UK that have historically been underfunded, however, how these plans are put into action are yet to be seen.
How can Birketts help?
Birketts have a specialist Housing Management Team and Development Team to assist our clients stay one step ahead. Our expert lawyers can advise on all aspects of site acquisition, development, housing and asset management. Our experts have decades of experience acting for Registered Providers and local authorities and offer a truly ‘one-stop shop’ for the issues facing the sector.
If you have any queries regarding the content of this article or wish to discuss any issue regarding the management of your tenants or stock, please contact Clive Adams, Jonathan Hulley or Lee Stone to see how Birketts can help you.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at February 2022.