Even though the new legislation was placed on hold because of the recent General Election and I have no doubts that it will be put on hold even longer with the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown and the ramifications it has had on our economy.
It was to be expected that the Government would start fining around half of all UK local authorities for failing to build enough new homes as Westminster wanted to force local authorities to build more homes with the new laws.
There is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the government and local authorities to kick start the economy after the end of the lockdown with an investment aimed at more building, hence more direct employment and growth in associated support businesses. To me, it’s a no brainer. I have sent this article to our local MP John Stevenson asking for his support and influence.
The Conservative Government has gone on record with an ambition to build 300,000 new homes each year from the mid-2020s (aspiring as the average for the last 13 years has only been 177,000 pa). So Downing Street see the planning system as requiring root and branch change to ensure local authorities deliver on that promise. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s ‘Housing Delivery Test’, which should be launched on an undetermined date this year, will hold local authorities to account for ensuring they hit their own specific house building targets.
If a local authority is unable to show that it has a five-year stock of land for building new homes, it gives builders greater rights and liberties to build their new homes where the builder wants (not where the local authority wants).
This will mean there will be a house-building free-for-all
as the council will have less control over the setting, types of properties, contribution to infrastructure and location of any new home development.
Only 44% of local authorities have a local plan that is less than five years old.
Locally, Carlisle is in that 44% of local authorities, having had a local plan in place within the last five years.
Yet, the original question of this article was to find out if we are building enough homes in Carlisle and the surrounding local authority area i.e. should we get the builders in? Well, the Government set targets for local authorities for the number of homes they should build each year. The latest set of data is for 2018, so for the three years up to and including 2018 i.e. 2016/2017/2018,
Carlisle’s new home building target was 623 new homes, yet it achieved 1,548, a surplus of 925 new homes
So, what does that all mean for the Carlisle property market?
Even with the surplus, there are positive and negatives to this. The Carlisle property market is not broken, yet it does need to get the builders in. Irrespective of the results from the last three years, we have over three decades of under building, which has created issues regarding affordability of homeownership and older generations being stuck in homes too big because there aren’t enough suitable homes for them to move to, i.e. bungalows. The stabilisation of the General Election had a net positive to overall confidence in the local property market, meaning Carlisle homeowners and Carlisle landlords looking to sell their home in the coming spring and summer should have found decent demand (although sellers still need to realistic with their pricing). This was scuppered by the covid-19 outbreak with the housing market almost coming to a complete halt in Carlisle and nationally. I do think this halt will only be temporary until the lockdown is finished. I predict the Carlisle housing market will come back with a bang with many properties having been readied for sale with the surge in home improvements during the lock down. I also believe this time in confinement has given time for people to lay down plans for the future. This will include many house moves.
Unfortunately, the negatives are that many Carlisle renters that want to buy, are unable to as they can’t save after paying their rents and feel as if they’ve been left behind, or worse still, they have struggled to pay rents due to loss of employment of being furloughed.
I know the Government recently launched their “First Homes” scheme for selected first time buyers at the start of February, where a 30% discount would apply to “a proportion of new homes” and would be subsidised out of contributions from builders, the Tory’s have previously promised to build 200,000 cut price homes for first time buyers back in 2015, yet the National Audit Office has recently confirmed they never built a single one!
The simple fact is, we as a country need to build far more affordable homes in the areas where people want them. This means the dream of homeownership will be a greater possibility for our children and grandchildren in the future. Our local authority needs to continue to plan the housing needs (and associated infrastructure) to ensure that as we live longer and continue to grow as country – we have the homes in place to live in that are suitable for every generation.