But prime minister stops short of backing backbencher’s call to remove centrally-set local housing targets from levelling up bill

Rishi Sunak has told parliament he wants decisions over the location of new homes to be taken locally rather than by ‘distant bureaucrats’.

Sunak was asked by backbencher Theresa Villiers at prime minister’s questions yesterday whether he would amend the levelling up and regeneration bill to remove centrally-set local housing targets.

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The prime minister speaking in parliament yesterday

She said: “Excessive housing targets are placing greater and greater pressure on councils to approve development which damages our environment.

“When the prime minister came to Finchley over the summer, he said he wanted to abolish those targets. Will he use the levelling up bill report stage to bring forward government amendments to do that?”

In response Sunak did not say the government would abolish the targets but said ministers are committed to “making home ownership a reality for a new generation.”

He said: “We must build homes in the right places where people want to live and work but…I want those decisions to be taken locally with greater say for local communities rather than distant bureaucrats.”

He added housing secretary Michael Gove “is happy to sit and meet with her to discuss how best to make this a reality.”

Villiers in a blog on the Conservative Home website last week said the levelling up and regeneration bill is an “immediate opportunity” to tackle the problem by bringing forward amendments to “scrap centrally-determined housing targets” which she says have led to pressure to allow overdevelopment. She cited comments made to Housing Today in the summer by a spokesperson for Sunak saying he does not believe in “arbitrary top-down numbers”.

Technically the government does not set housing targets for local authorities, but, via the Standard Method formula, it does calculate the housing need for each local authority, for which councils have to have a strong justification to depart from when setting their own housing targets.

>>See also: Q&A: what Sunak has told us about his views on housing

>>See also: Gove is back - the key policy questions for the returning housing secretary

Housing secretary Michael Gove, speaking to the BBC last month, implied he was intending to reform and review the system for forming local housing targets.

He said: “My view is that what we do need is a fair way of allocating housing need that takes account of changes in population.”

Gove also said the government’s 300,000-home a year manifesto pledge is still in place.

Housing Today’s A Fair Deal for Housing Campaign is calling on the government to re-commit to meeting the 300,000-home a year target and is outlining ideas for how the housebuilding industry could deliver it with government support.

Stewart Baseley, executive chair of the Home Builders Federation (HBF), has warned getting rid of local housing targets altogether could lead to housing delivery falling to 140,000 net additional homes a year - 100,000 fewer than the number of new homes the industry is on track to deliver this year.

A Fair Deal for Housing campaign 

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Housing Today believes the government should not back away from its manifesto pledge of building 300,000 new homes a year by the middle of the decade. We badly need more homes and a lack of supply is a major factor in creating problems of affordability for both buyers and renters.

Over the next few months, Housing Today  will be exploring potential solutions to help us ramp up housebuilding to 300,000. These are likely to, include different ways of working, funding asks of government and policy ideas that could boost housebuilding.

We want to hear from you: what do you think can make a difference at a policy level?

What can the industry do better?

We believe that, with the right commitments from ministers and the industry, it is possible to build more homes and help the government to meet its objectives to “build beautiful”, improve quality and safety, boost home ownership and level up the UK.

Click here to find out more about the campaign

To contribute ideas to our A Fair Deal for Housing Ideas Zone database, click here.