Housing Minister Brandon Lewis confirmed today that councils have received nearly £3.4 billion through the New Homes Bonus for building over 800,000 more homes.
The minister stated that the figures demonstrated how more communities were saying ‘yes’ to new development after planning reforms restored local control.
It comes as new figures show that planning permissions increased to 240,000 in the year to September, demonstrating that the locally-led system and incentives such as the New Homes Bonus are effective.
In the year to October 2014, councils assisted in the construction of 154,000 new homes and conversions, including over 42,000 new affordable homes, and the re-use of over 10,000 vacant homes. In recognition of this, Mr Lewis today announced a provisional allocation of £1.2 billion New Homes Bonus to councils in England.
Since the introduction of the New Homes Bonus in April 2011, over 700,000 homes and conversions have been completed, and over 100,000 long-term vacant properties have been returned to use, resulting in councils receiving nearly £3.4 billion, including a £15 million premium for providing affordable housing.
Councils are free to spend the money however they see fit to benefit the community, including freezing Council Tax.
“We’ve got the country building again,” said Housing Minister Brandon Lewis, “and given local communities control over where new homes go in their area.” This is in stark contrast to the previous government’s housing crash and failed top-down regional strategies.
“Councils have received more than £3 billion for their contributions to getting Britain building, and as a result, housing construction has reached its highest level in seven years.”
“All local authorities are free to spend the money however they like to benefit their local communities – whether that’s supporting frontline services, providing new facilities or freezing Council Tax.”
Communities Minister Stephen Williams stated, “I’m delighted to see the number of long-term vacant homes decreasing, with 100,000 being re-used.” The New Homes Bonus payments made today are in recognition of council-led efforts to make this a reality.
“But I want councils to go even further, and use the range of powers we’ve put in their hands to end the blight of empty properties in our neighbourhoods and bring them back into productive use for the families who need the stability and security new home can provide.”
Councils across the country have made the most of this additional funding to ensure that their communities directly benefit from growth. This includes the following: Braintree council, which has allocated £750,000 of their Bonus to affordable housing and is investing £5 million in major infrastructure projects and projects that could stimulate housing growth, such as improvements to the A120 South Gloucestershire council, which provides grants to voluntary, community, and social enterprise organisations, as well as town and parish councils, to help them with their projects. Sheffield City Council, which has used a portion of their New Homes Bonus to provide a £1.6 million loan, allowing the development of six housing sites totaling 500 homes to begin sooner than anticipated.
Getting the country back on track
Today’s allocations coincide with a report on the New Homes Bonus’s progress to date. It examines the impact of the Bonus on key figures’ attitudes and behaviours, the financial impact of the Bonus on local governments, how Bonus receipts are used, and other issues.
According to the evaluation, nearly half of planning officers agreed the Bonus was a powerful incentive for supporting housing growth in 2014 to 2015, the Bonus is seen to be providing to its stated principles of being simple, transparent, and flexible in 2014 to 2015, and 75 percent of local authorities are net gainers from the New Homes Bonus policy. The New Homes Bonus is largely matching the distribution of housing need; the policy is especially helping to reduce the number of empty homes; and it has strengthened councils’ links between housing, planning, and finance. The Bonus is one of several factors encouraging and supporting a more proactive approach to house building, and it contributes to a more strategic and coordinated approach to housing provision within authorities.
The policy was promoting more positive attitudes toward new homes; the financial incentive and positive impact on attitudes are expected to grow over time as the policy works its way through local planning processes.