Gove to give local authorities more flexibility over government housing targets

Published by Scott Challinor on December 7th 2022, 12:00am

Levelling Up, Housing and Communities secretary Michael Gove has agreed to give local councils greater flexibility over meeting housing targets set by the government, as ministers sought to stave off a Tory rebellion.

Almost 60 Conservative MPs had supported an amendment to the Levelling Up Bill which supported a ban on mandatory housing targets, which has impeded the passage of the legislation through Parliament.

Conservatives who supported the government said that the plans were needed, since limiting the power of government targets could empower so-called “Nimby councils” and lead to fewer homes being delivered.

The Public Accounts Committee has already warned that the government is likely to miss its housebuilding target of delivering 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s, lagging 32,000 homes behind its 2016 and 2021 affordable housing targets.

The committee’s chair, Dame Meg Hillier, said that the “human cost of inaction” on housing was clear and was “already affecting thousands of households”, before now being subject to “the challenges of increased building costs”.

However, Conservative rebels said that the housing targets were excessive and undermined local councils’ ability to block developments in their area that weren’t wanted by local residents.

Theresa Villiers, the former Tory minister who tabled the amendment, said that Gove’s announcement showed a compromise.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said that the government targets would now form a “starting point” and the government would be flexible to “reflect local circumstances” in enforcing the targets in specific areas.

Targets calculated to reflect their area must then form part of the local council’s 15-year housebuilding plans, and non-compliance can result in rescinding the relevant local authority’s powers to block new developments.

Rebel Tories have also informed the BBC that Gove has also given councils further leeway in that they will not need to set aside a rolling five-year stock of land for future development if they have an up-to-date housebuilding plan.

Gove said that the concessions would help the government meet its targets, but it would be “difficult” to achieve it over the next year given the current economic climate.

Labour shadow levelling up, housing and communities secretary, Lisa Nandy, said that the concessions showed a weakness in government, adding that such a change of course on housing targets was “unconscionable in the middle of a housing crisis”.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

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Scott Challinor
Business Editor
December 7th 2022, 12:00am

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