Policy summary - Exceptions policy mooted to bring forward starter homes

Policy: Stepping onto the Property Ladder.

Issued by: Department for Communities and Local Government

Issue date: 15 December 2014

Closing date: 9 February 2015

Background: An initiative to enable high-quality starter homes for first-time buyers was unveiled at the Conservative Party conference in October. Last month, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) consulted on the proposal's details.

Key points: The Starter Homes Initiative aims to encourage housebuilders to develop underused or unviable industrial or commercial land for 100,000 new low-cost homes over the next five years by lifting planning costs and levies.

Under the consultation proposals, an exceptions policy would be used to release sites. This would be based on the well-established system used in rural areas, through which land that would not normally be released for homes is made available to meet local affordable housing needs.

The proposed policy would require local authorities to approve applications for starter homes on exception sites, unless they can demonstrate "overriding considerations in relation to health, safety or infrastructure that cannot be mitigated".

The consultation document explains that planning conditions or obligations should be attached to permissions for starter homes on exception sites, requiring them to be offered for sale at a minimum of 20 per cent below normal market price to people who have not previously bought a home and are under 40 at the time of purchase.

The DCLG says exception schemes would not be obliged to pay section 106 affordable housing contributions or Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charges. It estimates that this would save an average of £15,000 per home in section 106 charges and £6,000 in CIL But it makes clear that starter home schemes could still face section 106 liabilities for necessary site-specific infrastructure.

Under the proposals, conditions or planning obligations would be used to ensure that starter homes could not be resold at full market value for a fixed period of between five and 15 years. The DCLG says councils could allow the inclusion of a "small proportion" of market housing on exception sites where essential to make discounts viable.

A panel is to be established to ensure that homes built under the initiative are well designed. Panel members will include the architects Sir Terry Farrell and Sir Quinlan Terry, the writer Roger Scruton and representatives from organisations the Design Council, Create Streets, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Royal Town Planning Institute.

At the time of last month's launch, nine local authorities, 16 volume housebuilders and 15 smaller building firms had signalled support for the initiative. The government aims to issue a written ministerial statement bringing the exception policy into force by the time Parliament rises in March.

The document can be found here.

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