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Levelling Up: Which Homes Policies are Included in the White Paper?

Brownfield site funding revealed in levelling up white paper
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The government has published its levelling up white paper and several housing policies have been announced in a bid to achieve its ‘levelling up missions’.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities says its pledges will shift government focus and resources to Britain’s forgotten communities throughout the 2020s. However, no new money has been announced to help deliver the government’s plans, which are reliant on the chancellor’s Spending Review funding pledges in October 2021. 

The policies unveiled include clarification of which cities will be the first to access funding to regenerate brownfield sites, and a new fund will be launched to help small and medium-sized (SME) builders deliver new homes. 

There is nothing new on the government’s forthcoming planning reforms, but the white paper confirms that the government “will introduce legislation to Parliament to underpin in statute the changes fundamental to levelling up, alongside wider planning measures”.

Here’s what you need to know about the key housing policies announced. 

Brownfield Funding Revealed

The £1.5bn Brownfield Fund was first announced by the chancellor in the October Budget, but we now know through the white paper which places in the UK will be prioritised for funding.

The funding, which the government says is part of a "radical new regeneration programme" will be first granted to Wolverhampton and Sheffield (the first of 20 cities) to develop derelict brownfield sites in town and city centres to combine housing, leisure and business in “sustainable, walkable, beautiful new neighbourhoods".

Much of the previously announced £1.8bn brownfield funding in the November Spending Review will be diverted to the North and Midlands, the government says. 

The 80/20 Rule Has Been Scrapped

This brownfield funding had previously been directed towards London and the South East, in practice, under the ‘80/20 rule’, whereby 80% of government funding for housing supply is directed at ‘maximum affordability areas’ 

But this rule will be scrapped, the white paper has confirmed. A total of seven mayoral combined authorities in the North and Midlands will now receive £120m to deliver 7,800 homes on disused brownfield land. 

Levelling Up Home Building Fund

The £1.5bn Levelling Up Home Building Fund, first announced in 2020, will be launched this week which will provide loans to SME builders working in priority levelling up regions. The government hopes that this will lead to 42,000 new homes being delivered.

In response, Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “For local housebuilders, loans through the Home Building Fund should be targeted at reversing the decline in SME housebuilders, who are now delivering only 12% of our housing stock, down from 40% in the 1980s. 

“Local housebuilders develop on underutilised land that will be vital for hitting housing targets. However, these plans must make sure we’re helping to deliver new homes where demand is highest.” 

Building a home

The government will provide loans to SME builders working in priority levelling up regions (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Decent Homes Standard

All homes in the private rented sector will have to meet a minimum standard known as the Decent Homes Standard, to reduce the number of poor-quality homes over the next eight years. An estimated 800,000 renter properties could be upgraded as a result. 

What Else?

  • The UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population
  • As part of private rented sector reform, Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions will be abolished, while ministers will also consult on introducing a landlords register and will “set out plans for a crackdown on rogue landlords”
  • The government says it will further commit to building more genuinely affordable social housing.

What’s the Reaction Been?

James Mannix, head of residential development and investment at Knight Frank welcomed the paper, saying: “It is absolutely right that the government is trying to spread opportunity and prosperity into areas of the country that have historically been underprovided for and underfunded. We must also make sure there is a balanced approach to investment across the whole of the UK.”

However, Mannix called for focus on the three “most significant” challenges facing homebuilders in the UK which require attention, including the construction materials shortage. He added: “The government should continue to focus on easing supply chain challenges, some of which are the result of our post Brexit relationship with the rest of the world, labour shortages, and unnecessary delays in the planning system.” 

Nicholas Christofi, managing director of Sirius Property Finance, added: “It’s great to see the government’s intent to support SMEs by making them the focus of their levelling up plans and the agile and adaptable nature of these smaller housebuilders should pay dividends when it comes to improving the prosperity of our nation. 

“That said, there’s no ‘new money’ in today’s loan announcement of £1.5bn and so let’s hope that the government continues to provide support to SME housebuilders on an ongoing basis, not just via a few initial, headline grabbing gestures.”

Jack has worked in journalism for 11 years and is the News Editor for Homebuilding & Renovating, a role he has had since 2019. He strives to break the most relevant and beneficial stories for self builders, extenders and renovators, including the latest news on the construction materials shortage and hydrogen heating. In 2021 he appeared on BBC's The World at One to discuss the government's planning reforms. 

He enjoys testing new tools and gadgets, and having bought his first home in 2013, he has renovated every room and recently finished a garden renovation.