Since the launch of the Starter Homes Regulations Technical Consultation in March 2016, there has been much speculation as to how the starter homes regime will take shape. Fundamental questions have included the following:
- to what extent will starter homes replace more traditional types of affordable housing?
- will a national starter homes requirement of 20% be imposed on all eligible developments?
- how will the price caps and discount requirements interrelate?
At present, these and many other important questions remain unclear. However, with the Housing White Paper expected to be released later this month, it is hoped that some further clarity will soon be provided.
What will be in the Housing White Paper?
Our expectation is that the Housing White Paper will introduce a more flexible approach to starter homes. For example, on the basis of recent comments from Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell MP, an expansion of the definition of starter homes to include rent-to-buy models could well be included. Some parties are also advocating a cascade, so that starter homes can be converted to rent-to-buy or shared ownership tenures if prices are so high that a commuted sum in lieu of on-site provision would otherwise result.
From a housing needs and numbers perspective, there is certainly some merit to this suggestion. Either way, having fallen down the political priority list following the Brexit vote, the Housing White Paper is likely to reignite the debate surrounding the delivery of starter homes on greenfield sites.
Brownfield starter homes development
The start of 2017 has also seen further development of brownfield starter homes policy. On 3 January, the Department for Communities and Local Government released a statement which identified the first 30 Starter Home Land Fund Partnerships to be established under the £1.2 billion Starter Homes Land Fund. The purpose of these partnerships between the Homes and Communities Agency and local authorities is to enable the acquisition, remediation and de-risking of sites which are suitable for Starter Home development by developers by 2020. The expectation from the government is that the fund will enable brownfield starter home development to come forward quickly, with the first units being ready for occupation in 2018.