Almost £500 million is to be made available for the building of more than 11,000 much needed affordable properties, including for social rent, across England, it has been announced.
Secretary of State for Housing, James Brokenshire, said the Government is also backing a pioneering project to build rooftop properties in London on the top of existing buildings with plans going ahead in Tooting, Wanstead, Walthamstow, Putney and Wallington.
Overall some £497 million of funding will be available for housing associations as part of strategic partnerships agreed by Homes England and Brokenshire told the London First Building Summit that the successful housing associations will have the freedom to spend the money on the developments where they can have the biggest impact.
Regarding the London rooftop development, Homes England has agreed a £9 million funding deal with Apex Airspace Developments. The properties will be largely constructed off site before being winched on top of buildings, minimising disruption to residents.
The first of the homes will be completed by the summer and in total 78 rooftop homes will be built under the three year deal. These kind of developments are now permitted under a revised planning rulebook that encourages authorities to promote the use the airspace above existing residential and commercial premises for new homes.
‘By providing targeted investment in affordable homes, and funding innovative projects to build rooftop properties, we are making our housing market work for everyone. Our £500 million funding boost for housing associations will help them build thousands of extra affordable homes,’ said Brokenshire.
‘There’s no question that we need to raise our game urgently, to seize every opportunity to boost supply across the capital and key transport corridors. We’re reforming planning to provide greater certainty and clarity for developers and communities and have empowered Homes England, our new national housing agency, to take a more strategic and assertive approach to increasing supply around and outside London,’ he explained.
‘We’ve also removed the Government cap on how much councils can borrow to build more, a real breakthrough, and are investing £2 billion of long term funding to help housing associations deliver,’ he added.
Homes England chairman, Sir Edward Lister, explained that it will mean homes being built faster. ‘Our new ways of working with the sector means that housing associations can use their funding flexibly across their development programmes and respond quickly to local housing demand and a changing market,’ he said.
Apex is a pioneer of ’airspace’ development where unused airspace above residential, commercial and public buildings is used as a location for new homes. The funding will enable the offsite construction of the homes prior to transportation to each of the five sites.
These will then be lifted on top of existing buildings with a crane.
The National Federation of Builders (NFB) welcomed the renewed emphasis on social housing and praised the Government for showing a more substantial approach towards solving the housing crisis.
‘This decision shows the Government is listening and taking action. It’s not enough, but it’s a first step in the right direction towards building more social and affordable homes,’ said Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB.
However, according to Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy for the House Builders Association (HBA), more still needs to be done to reform planning to help more homes to be built more quickly.
‘The greatest obstacle remains the slow and expensive planning process which prevents us from getting our shovels in the ground. As long as the planning system remains broken and unreformed, we will never build the 800 homes a day we so desperately need,’ he pointed out.