The Planning Officers Society strongly supports the need to house the population. This is a fundamental requirement of the planning system and central to the NPPF. A good planning system will enable housing provision that meets the full spectrum of objectively assessed need, ensuring that those who are most in need and unable to access housing in the market are assisted. We consider that the proposals that are being put forward to include Starter Homes as affordable are misconceived and undermines the objectives of the NPPF. It is not that we are against discounted market housing as a product, indeed in many areas these are provided already by our members where there is local need for them, but treating them as affordable housing ahead of other products will result in unintended consequences and suboptimal housing provision.
We are particularly concerned about the discount only being in place for 5 years. This will mean that within a relatively short period such schemes will cease to be affordable leading to an overall loss of affordable housing stock. There is also a serious danger that the short discount period will lead to market distortion which will have a significant inflationary pressure on house prices. It will also adversely affect existing affordable housing programs of registered providers as developers are likely to substitute starter homes for rented affordable housing for local needs. For many smaller regional house builders the advanced sale of affordable housing to housing associations provides the capital to bring forward housing sites. As an additional product they have their place in a portfolio of products to meet locally identified need, but as the primary product they are likely to increase rather than reduce the housing crisis.
POS is strongly supportive of increasing the numbers of homes built across the country. We believe the planning system has a key role in increasing the supply of new homes built in the right place as part of sustainable communities. However, housing takes a number of years to deliver from plan to completion and a stable policy context is essential to optimize delivery. We urge the Government to minimise policy changes and maximize the use of existing processes and mechanisms to boost housing delivery. We are keen to continue to work with government to support this approach, although we are concerned that some of the detailed changes currently suggested need further consideration as they may lead to unintended consequences.
Although POS supports the development of housing this cannot be at the expense of other land uses. A balance is needed and we cannot over emphasise the importance of planning for sustainable communities with jobs as well as homes. LPAs need to plan for long term employment provision to ensure balanced communities and minimise the need to travel. It needs to be recognised that in most cases housing is the most profitable form of development and some of the suggested policy changes are likely to have a negative impact on economic prosperity.
POS believes that land is not the problem in delivering more market housing or starter homes. According to recent research the nine largest housebuilders currently have land banked plots for 615,152 homes. The main constraint is the capacity of the industry to build. As both Bovis and Persimmon Homes have recently stated, there is a serious lack of availability of skilled tradespersons to construct the increased number of dwellings government aspires to. It has been estimated by the Federation of Masters Builders that the maximum capacity increase possible is about 10% pa making it very unlikely that the 200,000 starter homes can be delivered on top of existing numbers. The danger is that starter homes are substituted for affordable and market housing and that the overall level of house building does not significantly increase.