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Here at Open Property Group, we like to ensure we keep up to date on all the issues and challenges that have an impact the UK housing sector. One such challenge, the current Government has pledged to address, is the sheer lack of new home building in the UK and more importantly where it could be focussed.

The Government has made it noticeably clear that it is prepared to turn current planning legislation on its head in a drive to ensure its meets in new homes objectives, 300,000 new homes each year by the mid 20’s. That is a big number, but what does that mean and where do they expect those new homes to be built? Well in recent weeks there has been a further twist in this long running challenge.

In August they announced a formula designed to allow Councils to evaluate how many properties needed to be built within their areas and to make recommendations of which proposed sites. The reaction of many Southern based MP’s was that it would result is simply more concreting of the greenbelt as more of the South was turned into suburbia!

A link to the Government White Paper can be found here

What’s in store for 2021?

The change of tack is that the Government strategy (for that read their targeting model for potential development) has been "updated" to focus more on cities and urban areas in the North and Midlands, to ensure that development is more evenly spread across the country and away from the South East and London.

In many respects this makes complete sense. Sites are more readily available, population density is lower and, especially over the last 12 months, more people have realised working from home is a viable and workable option.

The challenge is by moving the focus for building more in the North, can the Government fulfil their promise of building affordable homes where people “want” to live?

Demand for housing is still greater in the South & South East so only time will tell. Whilst the Government is fully aware that they need housing in the South, they are equally focussed on shifting new house building to urban and brownfield sites in the Midlands and North. This could create significant opportunities for private sector investment and the turning of previously unusable land into a profitable opportunity.

What is clear is that the focus is being shifted, partly to appease some Government back benchers who don’t want to see a reduction in the green belt, or development in their “back yard”, but also to look at a more representative spread of development across the UK.

We see this as a definite move by the Government to spread the load of house building across the country and create opportunities for property developers and landowners. Previously unused, derelict or underdeveloped land could become useable as regulations are lifted and updated.

Furthermore, changes in regulations regarding land use could and should influence the mix of commercial and residential property we see in our town and city centres soon. The evolving face of our High Street could quite easily soon incorporate residential developments replacing previous commercial retail and office space.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said “We want this to be an opportunity for a new trajectory for our major cities – one which helps to forge a new country beyond Covid - which is more beautiful, healthier, more prosperous, more neighbourly and where more people have the security and dignity of a home of their own.”

That is a bold statement, and hopefully one which can be delivered against. Not only will that create much needed housing but, also encourage property landowners and developers to look closely at areas where development was previously unconsidered or restricted.

However, will it create housing where it is really needed? That question is still open to debate but hopefully, what it will do is provide the necessary stimulus to start the process off.

Nothing is finalised yet, and we are sure events will change again in the future but, rest assured, that here at OPG we will keep an eye on the situation and ensure we give you our view of how it impacts the property sector.

Published on 7th January 2021

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