Headlines: October 29th, 2007

Council leaders have welcomed Government plans for financial incentives for authorities who act to make more homes available and speed up the building of new properties. They have warned, however, that there needs to be additional money for services to prevent the creation of what they call ‘desolate dormitories’.

Housing Minister Yvette Cooper set out the plans in a consultation over a proposed 510 million pound pot to support councils and communities working to deliver new homes. The proposals include giving access to the funding only to councils with robust strategies for reducing the numbers of empty homes and more money for those communities that are doing the most to support more homes in their area.

There may also be a higher rate of grant for family homes compared to smaller properties and clarification over outdated regional housing targets so they are not seen as a ceiling on local authorities which want to build more. Councils that identify good sites for more homes will also get more cash as will those authorities that have set out a five-year plan of good sites for homes and that have consulted on plans for 15 years into the future.

Sir Simon Milton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said the plan represented a significant injection of cash to help councils identify land and plan where new homes would go. He welcomed the fact that the Government had recognised that councils were facing a shortage of houses but he added, “As well as providing more houses, councils need to be able to deliver high quality homes that people want to live in, need and deserve. What is now necessary is the funding for the roads, public transport, schools and hospitals needed to make sure we do not build desolate dormitories, but places where people can live and work.”

Sir Simon also wanted an assurance that councils in densely populated areas would not be penalised because they had less land available for development and he called on the Government to consider tackling land banking. “There are large amounts of land which developers already own which also have been given planning permission. Businesses should be encouraged to start building rather than sitting on brown field land, so that more affordable homes could be built,” he said.