Cautious welcome for new housing strategy

It throws its weight behind a long standing BPF campaign for the creation of a large-scale, professionally run private rented sector, whereby major institutions such as pension funds build homes to let.

The Government has committed to bringing forward sites for build-to-let and to conduct an "independent" review of the sector in the New Year.

Ian Fletcher, director of policy at the British Property Federation, said: "The housing strategy is a welcome first step towards a coherent and long-term vision for house building in this country and it is good to see the Government recognise the importance of encouraging investment in to the private rented sector, something that will be vital if we are going to see the necessary number of homes built to meet demand.

"We would urge the government to press on with this quickly. The strategy is welcome but it comes not a moment too soon with house building at historical lows and the general economy in dire need of support. In practice this means bringing forward sites for build-to-let by next April, at the latest, and conducting a swift independent review by somebody with intimate knowledge of the sector.

"Likewise, we would urge Government to get its ideas on converting empty offices in to new homes by next spring."

Meanwhile, Richard Lambert, Chief Executive, National Landlords Association, said: "It is a very positive sign that the Government has put housing back at the forefront of the political debate where it belongs. Having recognised that the private-rented sector is playing an increasingly important role in meeting housing supply, it is crucial that efforts across Government encourage increased the supply of homes to meet housing need.

"The PRS has already grown to comprise over 16% of all UK housing stock and offers a flexible solution for a wide range of people, but it must continue to expand to meet the needs of a whole new generation of renters.

"Diversification is necessary if housing supply is to grow in order to provide suitable accommodation for the UK’s growing population. The Government’s approach seeks to address this by highlighting the sector’s capacity to incorporate a variety of investment models to compliment the multitude of smaller investors who have helped grow the sector. Institutional investment, which currently makes up just 1% of the sector, can form part of this.

"Given the current level of demand for private-rented accommodation, this inclusive approach can only support the changing needs of tenants and encourage the supply of good quality housing."

RICS too also welcomed the Housing Strategy – spokesperson Michael Newey said: "RICS welcomes the Government’s Housing Strategy and hopes that the proposals can go some way to boosting the stagnant housing market. Given its central role in driving economic growth, it is right that housing is now at the top of the political agenda.

"Better access to mortgage finance is essential to bring forward the new homes needed to help more achieve their aspiration of home ownership, particularly first-time buyers. The New Build Indemnity Scheme is to be welcomed but care must be taken to ensure it does not distort the market or lenders affordability calculations. The focus on new build will not free up chains and may reduce demand for second-hand property, putting those who wish to move but have little equity at a disadvantage. Whilst any attempt to stimulate supply and demand will help both consumers and developers, limiting funding to niche areas of the market in this way does not solve the wider need for adequate levels of funding in all parts of the market. Any new scheme must be clear and easy to understand for the consumer.

"Small to medium-sized developers will particularly welcome the Get Britain Building Investment Fund and the recognition of the key role housebuilders will play in driving much-needed economic growth. Further steps to free up public land for developers are encouraging but care must be taken that the land is in the right place with the right infrastructure. Projects must be properly analysed for viability otherwise developers run the risk of creating ‘white elephants’ that do not satisfy demand.

"Whilst a renewed focus bringing investment into the private rented sector is encouraging, an opportunity has been missed to begin delivering real consumer protection and professionalism right across this rapidly growing sector. RICS is keen to work with other industry bodies to develop these proposals.

"This is a good start from the Government but more detail is needed. RICS looks forward to continuing engagement with the Government and the sector to deliver a sustainable housing market that delivers aspirations across all sections of the market, benefiting UK PLC as a whole."

However, the Chartered Institute of Housing warned the foundations were not robust enough to achieve its aims.

Interim chief executive Grainia Long said: "While we are pleased to see housing recognised as central to the country’s economic success and people’s wellbeing, we fear that the Government’s strategy does not offer something for everyone, nor does it create a clear vision for the long-term future of housing beyond 2015."

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