Theresa May urges house builders to raise their game

What's the latest?

Builders and developers have been urged to ‘step up and do their bit’ to help ease England's housing crisis.

Speaking at a national planning conference in London today, Theresa May said: “I expect developers to do their duty to Britain and build the homes our country needs.”

The Prime Minister added that major public investment in infrastructure and schemes such as Help to Buy has provided "a real boost to house builders", and warned that if they wanted the policies to continue they must 'raise their game'.

With the number of new homes being built failing to keep pace with demand, a major overhaul of the government’s planning framework – the first in six years – was launched.

While the government has set a target of having 300,000 homes completed annually, just 147,278 new houses were ready to move into last year, according to the National House Building Council.

People have until Thursday 10 May to comment on the government’s planning rule changes.

What’s been proposed?

Councils and developers will have to work more closely with community groups on how new developments should look

Developers will be held to account by councils to provide affordable housing and infrastructure

Councils will have more freedom to build homes on brownfield land

There will also be greater flexibility to extend upwards into the ‘air space’ above existing blocks of flats, houses, shops and offices

Developers will NOT be able to build on large sites unless allocated in councils' official planning blueprints

Why are these changes needed?

The Prime Minister said that for decades, this country has failed to build enough of 'the right homes in the right places'.

From the mid-1990s, the failure to match demand with supply really began to push prices upwards.

“In 1997, the average home cost 3.5 times the average wage. By 2010, that ratio had more than doubled. To stop the seemingly endless rise in house prices, we simply have to build more homes, especially in places where unaffordability is greatest,” she added.

Adding to the crisis is a ‘vicious circle’ where first-time buyers are saving less and less, and can only get on to the property ladder with the help from the so-called Bank of Mum and Dad.

May said younger people are angry about this situation, as, “regardless of how hard they work, they won’t be able to buy a place of their own [and they’re] angry that no matter how many sacrifices they make to save for a deposit, they’ll never be able to compete with someone whose parents have released equity from their own home to help their children buy.”

Action was needed, the Prime Minister added, because planning permission should be given to those who are actually going to build houses, "not just sit on land and watch its value rise”.

How have people reacted to her comments?

Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, welcomed May’s speech for “recognising the scale of our housing emergency and the fact that our current housebuilding system is clearly not fit for purpose”.

Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, said that more than 423,000 homes with planning permission ‘are still waiting to be built’.

But, it was important that new homes were supported by crucial services and infrastructure such as roads and schools, he said, adding, “developers need to get on with building affordable homes, with the needed infrastructure, and councils need greater powers to act where housebuilding has stalled.”