Week commencing 16 September 2019

In today's bulletin

• Help to Buy failing to deliver
• Government’s public land sale policy must be redesigned

• Road traffic on the rise
• The cost of the digital divide

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Help to Buy failing to deliver

Sixty per cent of buyers who bought their first home using Help to Buy “did not need its support to buy a property,” according to a report published by the Public Accounts Committee. The report, published on 17 September, notes that Help to Buy was not designed to address issues in the planning system, aid affordability or help rising homelessness levels.
For these reasons the report casts doubt over the extent to which Help to Buy has benefited the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government beyond increasing the supply of new homes.

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Government’s public land sale policy must be redesigned

The Government’s sale of public land is not leading to the delivery of social housing and should be radically redesigned if we are to solve the housing crisis, the New Economics Foundation (NEF) has said. In a scrutiny of the policy published on 20 September, the NEF found just six per cent of the homes built on former public land will be available for social rent and less than one quarter of the homes will be any category of affordable.
Its analysis also revealed the Government will not meet its target of building 160,000 homes by selling off public land by the end of the 2015-2020 programme next year.

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Change processes for allocating social housing

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has called for a rethink into how social housing is allocated in a new report published on 17 September. Rethinking Allocations highlights the plight of people who are in acute need of social housing but are excluded by the current process because their background is not taken into consideration.
On a national level, it calls for a significant government funding programme for social housing and the suspension of Right to Buy, noting how the housing crisis is forcing local authorities to make impossible choices.

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Who owns social housing stock?

Private registered providers of social housing in England own or manage an increased volume of social housing stock, according to the Statistical Data Return 2018-2019.
Published by the Regulator for Social Housing on 19 September, the findings show that private registered providers owned 2,995,569 units / bedspaces on 31 March 2019, which is two per cent more than the same date in 2018.

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Government responds on modern methods of construction

In a report published on 20 September, the Government set out its commitment to support modern methods of construction (MMC) as part of the solution to reach its target of building 300,000 homes a year. Responding to a recent Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee report on MMC, the Rt Hon Esther McVey MP said the Government recognises the need to address barriers to assurance, insurance and finance.
The Housing Minister also said she would consider commissioning research into the durability of MMC to better understand the long-term energy efficiency and safety of these homes.

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Road traffic on the rise

Road traffic in the UK has increased by 29 per cent since 1990, and accounted for 20 per cent of the UK’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2017 the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed.
Published on 16 September, the data shows that despite this increase improvements in the fuel efficiency of vehicles meant GHG emissions from road transport increased by just six per cent, while emissions of the most damaging pollutants for public health have reduced.

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Network Rail could do better

The Government’s decision to sell railway arches capable of accommodating 5,621 commercial rental spaces was driven by a short-term need to plug a funding gap and resulted in a failure to properly engage tenants. In a report published on 16 September, the Public Accounts Committee criticised Network Rail and the Department for Transport for their handling of the arches sale to The Arch Company for £1.46bn.
As part of a sweep of recommendations, the committee has called on HM Treasury to monitor the department’s compliance with its Green Book and Business Case guidance going forward.

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Energy and Environment

The cost of the digital divide

The UK Government is not doing enough to address the digital divide between rural and urban economies and needs to tackle potential “hot-spots” with a “rural-roaming” solution, according to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
Published on 18 September, the committee’s Update on Rural Connectivity argues impact of the divide on rural areas is exacerbated by the policy of delivering a “digital-by-default” strategy for public services before solving the issue of poor connectivity in rural areas. The report’s conclusions include tackling partial “not-spots” with a form of “rural roaming” solution.

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Contracts for Difference scheme to power seven million homes

Over seven million homes will be powered by clean energy from twelve new projects backed by the Government’s Contracts for Difference scheme, an announcement from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has claimed.
Revealed on 20 September, the projects include offshore wind and remote island wind, as well as energy derived from waste that would otherwise go to landfill. The Government claims the new projects will add 6GW of capacity to the grid at below market prices – a first for renewables.

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The Crown Estate invites bids for new seabed rights

Bids are being invited for the opportunity to develop up to 7GW of offshore wind capacity in four areas around the UK. Launched on 19 September by The Crown Estate, Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4 covers Dogger Bank, the Eastern Region, the South East, and Northern Wales and the Irish Sea.
Developers and investors have until the end of January 2020 to complete a PQQ, which starts the five-stage process before an Agreement for Lease is signed for each bidding area in Autumn 2021.

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Other News

Housing and homelessness to be debated at Labour party conference

Several motions have been submitted to Labour conference by constituency parties, reflecting a wide variety of policy priorities ahead of a likely general election. Topics proposed by members and party groups include government intervention to protect high streets, tackling homelessness, rent capping, building more homes and compulsorily purchasing empty ones.
The conference continues for its fourth day today and will end on Wednesday 25 September.

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