Prime Minister David Cameron has announced plans to deliver 200,000 discounted homes to first-time buyers under a new ?Starter Homes’ policy, if the Conservatives remain in power after the General Election.
The coalition Government had already announced plans for 100,000 new cheap homes in 2014, and has now doubled its commitment to help those that
“have been priced out of the housing market”.
The new homes will be made available at a discount of 20% below their market value to first time buyers under the age of 40, and will not be eligible for re-sale for a five year period. To ensure that this reduction in price is affordable for developers, house-building firms will be exempt from community infrastructure levies and section 106 obligations, which require affordable and social housing to be included in new building schemes.
The ?Starter Homes’ will also be exempt from the zero carbon standard, despite the policy’s commitment to deliver
“high quality” homes that contribute to
“the creation of sustainable places where people want to live, work and put down roots”.
The new homes will be built on brownfield sites, with a number of Britain’s largest house-building firms reportedly already signed up for the scheme. These developers will be required to work off designs provided by a recently formed Design Advisory Panel, which has been established to ensure the quality of the new homes.
David Cameron said:
“We want to help people who work hard and want to get on in life but have been priced out of the housing market. A 20% discount off the price could be a real game-changer for many aspiring home-owners. My message is clear: we are on your side and we will help you fulfill your dream of buying your first home.”
Site exemptions from infrastructure commitments has also drawn criticism from Labour, which has suggested the homes will be delivered at the edge of communities with little transport or facilities in place to support the new households. However, the Government claims that the cheaper properties will provide the security of home ownership to those who would not be able to achieve this otherwise.
Concerns have also been raised regarding the removal of section 106 obligations. Gavin Smart, interim chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), said:
“We are very concerned about these sites being exempt from section 106 agreements, which usually require social or affordable homes to be built as part of a development, for people on lower incomes. This smacks of building for one group of people at the expense of another. Social housing is critical if we are going to solve the housing crisis – there are always going to be people who can’t afford to buy and we must provide decent, affordable homes for them too. If all the focus is on home ownership, we are never going to build mixed communities.”
However, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has come out in support of the proposals, suggesting that ?Starter Homes’ could benefit small builders.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said:
“The FMB supports the ambition of the Starter Homes policy to improve options and affordability for first time buyers. This is a model which can be made to work, but it will be important to make sure that it is delivered