Housebuilding policy 'incoherent'

File photo dated 25/06/13 of houses in Brighton as surveyors saw house sales lift to the strongest levels in nearly six years in the run-up to Christmas as the market began to

%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%A minister has branded a flagship coalition housebuilding policy "incoherent" and "unfair".

Local government minister Stephen Williams said his department's New Homes Bonus - which offers grants to councils based on the level of construction in their area - was having no real impact.
He also reportedly criticised an "absurd" cap on how far town halls can raise council tax without holding a local referendum.

The comments came as Mr Williams spoke to activists on the fringe of the Liberal Democrat conference in York over the weekend.

According to the Yorkshire Post, he said: "The New Homes Bonus - speaking freely as a Lib Dem MP - I'm not a fan of.

"I don't think it's an incentive, necessarily, for local authorities to give planning permission. I don't think it's actually driving decision-making on the ground."

Many districts were unable to host much extra housing for geographical reasons, he said. "It's not a fair opportunity," he added.

Turning to the coalition's 2% threshold for council tax increases, Mr Williams went on: "A referendum on tax rises is absurd.

"If we had it for income tax, VAT, then the country would probably grind to a halt."

The MP said the Government's planning policy was "constantly changing".

"(Tory planning minister) Nick Boles is hyperactive in that area - which is good in a way," Mr Williams said. "He's hated by a lot of Tory MPs - but he's quite a good colleague to work with in that he's thoughtful, he's creative, he knows his stuff."

Shadow communities Secretary Hilary Benn said: "Stephen Williams has thrown a flagship policy into chaos by admitting that the £1 billion New Homes Bonus is unfair and is not an incentive for house building or the giving of planning consent.

"Labour has already warned that all it does is give money to areas where homes would have been built anyway and takes it away from places in the greatest need.

"We are used to Lib Dems criticising their own Government's policies while voting for them, but it is extraordinary for a minister to comprehensively rubbish his own department's approach.

"On planning, it's an open secret that Nick Boles's constant tinkering has not made him a favourite of many Tory MPs, but now we have this confirmed by his colleague.

"Ministers have consistently claimed that local councils can absorb funding reductions by simply making efficiency savings and Eric Pickles has called the cuts 'modest'. Now Stephen Williams has admitted that some councils are facing 'severe financial difficulty' and questions about their 'viability'."

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "Prior to 2010 councils could lose central government funding as a result of building new homes.

"Thanks to the New Homes Bonus, which was part of the coalition agreement, communities are now given a share of the economic growth from new housing.

"Councils have so far received £2 billion for delivering 550,000 homes, and they are free to spend this money in any way they choose for the benefit of their local area."

The people who affect house prices
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Housebuilding policy 'incoherent'

They have the power to push a price higher, depending on how many other people are in the running for a home and how liberal they want to be with the truth to the buyers. In some cases, they can also do more harm than good by initially overvaluing a property. The worst case scenario is the home eventually sells for less than it would have done had it been priced realistically in the first place.

Sometimes a quick-moving solicitor can be the difference between getting the home at the price you want and getting into a bidding war or missing out entirely. If the buyer needs a quick sale, they're more likely to do a deal with someone who has a flexible solicitor who can push through the sale so it suits them.

Research by Halifax concluded that anti-social neighbours could take £31,000 off the price of an average home. If you’re selling, you should declare any problems you’ve had on a Seller’s Property Information Form, otherwise you could face a claim later on.

While an increase in Council Tax might not be too much of a deterrent to a potential buyer, plans to grant permission for new homes, a mobile phone mast or wind turbines could knock an asking price down. If you're a buyer, the local council should have details of any future planning applications and you can search them for a small fee.

A lot of traffic in an area obviously has an effect on air quality. Since 1997 each local authority in the UK has carried out studies of the air quality in its area. If an area falls below a national benchmark for air quality, it has to be declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). Some residents of the Llandaff area of Cardiff expressed concern that it had become an AQMA due to an increase in traffic in the area. Whether this becomes a widespread issue remains to be seen.

Mortgage availability is a key driver of property prices. If no-one can take out a mortgage, then prices will stall and eventually fall. We've seen this happen in parts of the UK in recent years, as lenders tightened up their criteria following the credit crunch. Conversely, good mortgage availability will mean more people are competing for properties - to a seller's advantage if their home is desirable.

An outstanding local school can add around 8% to the value of a home, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. On the flipside, a not so good Ofsted report can take off a similar amount. If you’re concerned about a school’s performance, one way to get involved is to become a governor.

Initiatives such as the Help To Buy scheme have been credited with pushing house prices up. A buoyant economy with strong employment gives people the confidence to buy and leads to an upward shift in house prices, while rises in unemployment have the reverse effect. Planning restrictions, at both a national and local government level, affect the number of homes in a particular area.


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