Sector says Michael Gove’s reforms announced this week are not sufficient to solve the housing crisis

Housing associations have welcomed Michael Gove’s brownfield reforms but say a long-term funding settlement and coherent strategy are the keys to solving the housing crisis. 

The housing secretary yesterday published a consultation paper on plans to require planning authorities to take a less restrictive approach when it comes to considering applications for development on brownfield sites. 


Source: Shutterstock

Housing secretary Michael Gove announced a suite of new policies earlier this week

He also proposed to include a “presumption in favour of brownfield development” in the top 20 most populous towns and cities in England where housing delivery falls below an acceptable level and changes to permitted development rights to make it easier for developers to convert commercial buildings, including shops and offices, into new homes. 

The suite of new policies followed an announcement of a £3bn extension of the Affordable Homes Guarantees fund, doubling the amount of loan finance initially available through the scheme. 

Jamie Ratcliff, chief communities and sustainability officer at Sovereign Network Group, said that while “all efforts to increase the supply of homes are welcome, continual piecemeal tweaks will not create the homes millions of people need”. 

He said there remained a “desperate requirement for a long-term vision and housing strategy that matches demand” and that housing should be treated as national infrastructure. 

“For the government’s plan to have impact it relies on the Housing Delivery Test reflecting real demand, to do that the test must be strengthened,” he said.  

“The rules should also be extended beyond the 20 largest boroughs, recognising that the 139,000 children in temporary accommodation and the millions of people who need good, affordable homes aren’t only in metropolitan areas.” 

Ratcliff said a long-term rent settlement would do more to assuage the doubts of patient capital than loan guarantees. Housing Today’s A Fair Deal for Housing campaign is calling for ministers to consider bringing in a longer-term rent settlement for registered providers as part of a package of plans to boost affordable housing delivery (see box below).

Hyde Group chief investment officerGuy Slocombe welcomed the efforts to boost supply but said permitted development for shops and office spaces had so far had “mixed results”.

“It’s vital that any conversions are sustainable, both for the people moving in when it comes to safety and affordability, but also for local communities, as a mix of residential and commercial space is crucial to deliver thriving places,” he said.   

Slocombe agreed with Ratcliff that a long-term strategy was the most important thing to address the housing supply. 

Geeta Nanda, chief executive of Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing, said steps to increase supply would need to be “backed up by more investment and partnership working between national and local government, housing associations and developers” to succeed. 

“This is now a matter of urgency,” she said. “With capital investment down by two-thirds since 2010, restoring this investment must be central to a long-term plan for housing to ensure everyone has the chance of a decent, affordable home and to live well.” 

Marie Chadwick, policy leader at the National Housing Federation, said: “Building on brownfield land is an important part of the solution but brownfield land alone cannot not provide nearly enough homes to address the current shortage. 

“There’s a lot more the government could do to make development easier, such as providing long term funding for regeneration as part of a national plan for housing.  

“Ultimately, to solve the housing crisis we must consider a strategic approach to housing development everywhere including building on the greenbelt, where appropriate, as well as funding for tens of thousands of new social homes.” 

A Fair Deal for Housing

A fair deal 3x2

Housing Today’s A Fair Deal for Housing campaign is calling for the government to launch a review to look how to increase affordable housing delivery to 100,000 homes a year.

This should consider overhauling existing funding for affordable housing so that a more ambitious programme can be delivered. 

The report suggests the review could look at grant rates for affordable housing, a longer-term rent settlement for social housing providers, a time-limited stimulus package to counteract the high cost of private funding and at mechanisms to lever in more institutional finance for ‘for-profit’ registered providers.

The campaign is also caling for measures to reform the planning system, boost private housing delivery and make regeneration easier.

Click here to read more about the campaign