Brexit and the housing crisis – where are we now?

01 August 2016

It is only a couple of months since the Government restated its 'one million homes by 2020' pledge. It was always going to be a big ask, with talk of land banking, constructions skills shortages and delays in the planning system being bandied about on a regular basis.

Brexit is one more spanner in the works. So where are we now?

The results of the vote immediately sent shockwaves around the world, resulting in housebuilder share prices plummeting overnight (although now rising again) and talk of economic uncertainty monopolising headlines.

A fall in house prices is of course a good thing for many, although if people are not moving up the ladder then for those trying to reach the first rung the desire of banks to lend and builders to build is ever more critical.

What does this mean for the planning system?  Gavin Barwell has now been appointed as Housing and Planning Minister (and Minister for London, in case he is not already busy enough) and Sajid Javid as Communities Secretary. They will have to hit the ground running, with much still left to do to bring the recently enacted Housing and Planning Act to full effect. The industry is still unclear on precisely what Starter Homes requirements will look like, what is to be the right to buy, and whether Permissions in Principle are likely to even out the playing field and encourage development on brownfield land.

Will an eventual Brexit result in a lessening of environment protection requirements and speed up the planning process? Possibly, although it seems unlikely that anything significant will happen on that front any time soon. Will we see developers pushing for a renegotiation of affordable housing (and other s106) requirements? Almost certainly, although remember that the s106BA appeal mechanism for unviable schemes has recently been automatically repealed (and I hardly dare think about what could happen to CIL). Will the Government continue to push for home ownership rather than exploring rental options? Seeing as this appears to be such a fundamental point for the Conservatives, that would seem unlikely, but these are strange times and perhaps nothing should be ruled out.

Come what may, and as the UK's population is likely to continue to grow and grow, the desperate need for more housing - that people can afford to live in - is not going to go away. We await news on how the planning system will react – safe in the knowledge that if there is one thing we know the planning system can do, it is change.

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