Property  

Minister reaffirms commitment to 1m homes by 2020

Minister reaffirms commitment to 1m homes by 2020

The government remains committed to its target of building one million new homes over the course of the current parliament – despite a shortfall of 190,000 in 2015-16.

Housing minister Gavin Barwell reaffirmed the pledge as he faced a House of Commons select committee on Monday afternoon (27 February), adding that conversions and change of use would form a key part of the drive for new homes.

Doubts have previously been expressed that the government will meet its target, and last year Mr Barwell himself acknowledged the goal may not be achieved.

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But while the minister admitted there was no “silver bullet” when it came to boosting supply, he claimed a number of techniques, including modern manufacturing methods, could form part of the solution.

The government hopes to have 275,000 new affordable homes completed by 2020, one third of which will be affordable rent, one third shared ownership and one third Help to Buy.

The minister acknowledged the need for flexibility in delivering its targets, with some regions of the country experiencing greater demand than others.

He called for more coordination between local authorities and singled out the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework as an example of best practice.

“What we would hope to see is more and more local authorities working together on a strategic plan and a lot of the detail filled in through neighbourhood plans,” he commented.

“If you take one area constrained by the Green Belt, there may be areas close by that are keen to grow.”

With a balance to be struck between centralised planning and local delivery, the minister suggested publishing data on local authorities’ performance against their targets could provide an incentive to build.

And while preserving the green belt remains a Conservative manifesto commitment, he suggested there may be some flexibility in the definition of “exceptional circumstances” that would allow extra homes to be built.

Mr Barwell conceded that infrastructure investment would be required to ensure the target is met and pointed to the £2.3bn of infrastructure spending in the chancellor’s Autumn Statement as evidence of the government’s commitment in this area.

simon.allin@ft.com