Report published on how coronavirus (COVID-19) has increased housing inequality

Report published on how coronavirus (COVID-19) has increased housing inequality

The Intergenerational Foundation has published a report looking at how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has increased the inequality in housing assets and housing space between renters and owners, rich and poor, and, most significantly, between older and younger generations. The report also looks at the implications of this divide for health, wellbeing, and political stability and analyses the failures in housing policy that have led to this divide, the problems raised by an ageing population, and the need for government action to promote and encourage downsizing from under-occupied properties.

The policy recommendations outlined in the report are as follows:

• the government should re-confirm a target of building 300,000 homes a year in England and use all available policy levers to stick to it

• the government should commit to a programme of building 100,000 social rent homes each year and provide funding and land to make this happen, diverting funds from Help to Buy and other failed policies where necessary

• Help to Buy should be scrapped and the funds diverted to support programmes of affordable housebuilding

• the government should commission a parliamentary review into the state of the housebuilding industry to assess whether it is meeting the nation’s needs

• the government should seek to support smaller housebuilders, and encourage new entrants to the housebuilding industry by a package of fiscal and other measures, including measures to reduce bureaucracy and make land available to smaller providers

• the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) should require local authorities to plan for housing needs rather than demand, and ensure that the housing mix in new schemes reflects local demographics

• local plans should include specific targets for retirement housing, providing quotas within larger schemes, in the same way that quotas for affordable housing are set

• the government should ensure the proposals in the recent Planning White Paper are followed through to make the planning system simpler and more transparent. It should explore ways to open up the system to a wider range of views, both for strategic planning and for individual planning applications, and make use of new technologies, including social media and other methods that will reach out to under-represented groups

• the NPPF should also include a new requirement that local authorities assess the degree of under-occupation within their existing housing stock and include measures in local plans to provide bespoke retirement housing, and other measures to incentivise downsizing

• the government should consider what support could be provided to the retirement housebuilding sector to allow it to grow and increase significantly its output of new homes. The government should also review the NPPF  to ensure that there is a national and co-ordinated approach to planning issues that impact upon the retirement housing sector

• the concept of rural exception sites should be extended both to put retirement housing on a par with affordable housing for rural exception sites, and to define exception sites within urban areas so that marginal and borderline land, such as infill sites that would otherwise not receive planning permission, could receive permission if they are exclusively for retirement housing

• Permitted Development Rights should be scrapped. All proposals for change of use from commercial to residential should be considered within the normal planning process, under local democratic control

• the stamp duty holiday should not be extended other than for existing transactions

• stamp duty should be scrapped for any purchase where an owner is moving from a larger to a smaller property, assessed by bedroom size

• a national revaluation of properties should be carried out together with a review of the council tax system in order to create a fairer system where people in larger properties pay proportionately more. At the very least, an additional Band I should be added, as in Wales

• the single person council tax discount should be abolished for those in Bands E–H

• the government should institute a general review of the tax and benefits system to see if there are any tweaks or reforms that could discourage under-occupation and encourage people, and older people in particular, to downsize

• the government should consider what support could be provided to the retirement housebuilding sector to allow it to grow and increase significantly its output of new homes. The government should also review the NPPF to ensure that there is a national and co-ordinated approach to planning issues that impact upon the retirement housing sector

Source: Stockpiling Space: How the pandemic has increased housing inequalities between older and younger generations

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