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Peers overturn 20 per cent starter home requirement

Published: Thursday, 14th April 2016

The government’s starter homes policy suffered serious setbacks in the Lords this week as peers voted through amendments to the housing and planning bill designed to safeguard affordable housing.

One amendment would allow councils discretion over how many starter homes are required in new residential developments. The government had wanted the legislation to require that at least 20 per cent of new housing on larger sites would be starter homes.

As a result of this change, planning authorities will be able to “grant planning permission for a residential development having had regard to the provision of starter homes based on its own assessment of local housing need and viability”.

Crossbencher peer Lord Kerslake, chairman of social housing provider Peabody Homes and former permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government forced that to a division which the government lost by 86 votes.

Another amendment changed the position on the so-called starter homes discount taper which is now 20 years instead of the government’s proposed eight. On that division the administration lost by 94 votes.

These challenges to government policy came during the initial sessions of the report stage of the bill in the Upper Chamber on Monday evening.

Government minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said: "first-time buyers want homes now and cannot wait for 336 planning authorities each to undertake local needs assessments before action is taken on starter homes.

“The government believes it is important that the delivery of starter homes is as simple as possible for buyers, developers and local authorities, with a clear national requirement. Our modelling showed that 20 per cent is a reasonable minimum figure for the requirement.”

She told the Lords that that the government estimated that “50,000 to 70,000 traditional affordable housing starts will come forward by 2021 through Section 106, alongside the starter homes requirement.”

The report stage continues.

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Roger Milne