Government looks to Oxford and Cambridge for new homes

Government has set out plans to deliver 23,000 homes in new communities in Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

It has announced that Bicester in Oxfordshire, already the site of a proposed eco-town, will be the location for the second of a new wave of proposed garden cities, comprising some 13,000 new homes. Ebbsfleet in Kent was named as the first garden city location earlier this year.

At the same time the government has set out its intention to fast-track development at the planned Northstowe settlement near Cambridge. The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) is already steering development of the former airfield site to provide a community of 10,000 homes, but government plans to extend the agency’s remit with the objective of delivering homes twice as fast as conventional approaches allow. The pilot programme will see government driving masterplanning, and directly commissioning, building and selling homes. The government will make an upfront investment but expects later costs to be met through sale of land and homes. The approach will be monitored and could be rolled out more broadly if successful.

The Northstowe proposal features in the government’s new 2014 National Infrastructure Plan. The plan sets out previous and new announcements on construction spending, including:

  • Investing £2.3 bn in 140 flood defence projects in a six-year investment programme
  • Investing £15 bn in road improvements
  • £100m for infrastructure and land remediation at Ebbsfleet garden city
  • A commitment to a heads of terms agreement for a loan of £55m to support the extension of the London Overground rail service to Barking Riverside, to unlock delivery of 11,000 homes
  • Supporting the regeneration of London’s Brent Cross to unlock 7,500 homes
  • Extending the capital settlement for affordable housing by £957m in 2018-19 and 2019-20 with the aim of delivering 275,000 new affordable homes over the next parliament
  • Consulting on streamlining the process for selling shared ownership homes
  • Approval of London’s Grahame Park, Blackwall Reach, Aylesbury Estate and New Union Wharf projects for funding under the £150m estates regeneration programme, where 8,000 homes will be built
  • Committing to release public sector land with capacity for up to 150,000 homes over the next parliament
  • Consulting on ways to increase the borrowing capacity of housing associations in relation to the valuation of properties transferred from local authorities.

What they said?

Chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander said: “New houses support economic growth and are a crucial element of a fair society, so I’ve prioritised the investment of almost £2 billion to ensure we can build on average 55,000 new homes a year until 2020. Combined with the other measures we are announcing today, we will vastly increase supply by providing funding certainty, unlocking capacity in housing associations and kick starting stalled regeneration projects.”

Ruth Davison, director at the National Housing Federation, said: “Whilst any investment in boosting the supply of new homes is welcome, what we really need is a strategic long term plan which will end the housing crisis within a generation.”

Grainia Long, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, welcomed the announcements but added, “We need more homes for social rent so that people struggling on low incomes can afford a decent home.  Affordable rent has a role to play but it doesn’t work for everyone – as it can be up to 80% of market rent it is simply not affordable for many people, especially in London and the south east.”

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