Ministers are considering planning restructuring to increase affordable housing

Ministers will consult on planning reforms that would free up pockets of land in cities across England to allow hundreds of thousands of homes to be built and support struggling small-scale developers.

The Government said this week it would look at proposals that would support the development of smaller sites for new homes after Andrew Lewer, a Conservative backbench MP, tabled an amendment to the Delayed Leveling and Regeneration Bill moving through Parliament.

Lewer had sought to insert a “small lots clause” into the legislation which would have required councils to “support opportunities to advance lots and apply a presumption in favor of development”, provided at least 60 per cent of the homes proposed were affordable .

He said he had decided not to seek a vote on the amendment because ministers “had indicated an interest in the amendment and assured that it will be part of the government’s forward thinking.”

He added: “We all know the scale of the crisis we face. In 2003, 59 percent of households were headed by someone aged 25 to 34, and by 2020 this had fallen to 47 percent.”

The government said in a statement: “We want to see the right homes built in the right places – that’s why we will be consulting on what more we can do to support development on small sites, particularly in relation to affordable housing.

Nearly 30 developers, including Britain’s biggest housebuilder Barratt Developments and smaller groups such as London-focused affordable housing company Pocket Living, have thrown their weight behind the “small plots” proposal.

Marc Vlessing, chief executive of Pocket, argued that a small sites clause would boost the stock of affordable housing in England and help revive SME developers who have all but disappeared over the past few decades.

“The requirements of a small lot are quite similar to the requirements of a very large lot . . . Large sites are much more affordable than small ones,” Vlessing said.

According to the Home Builders Federation, SMBs account for only about 10 percent of new homes, compared to 40 percent in 1988.

“We are in a housing economy where only the very, very largest and the very, very smallest [developers] can survive. The biggest because they have the guts to survive even the most judgmental politics and the smallest because they are so focused [that] if politics goes against them, they can pack up and come back in a couple of years, Vlessing said.

The company’s analysis of available land in 10 major English cities suggests that adopting the proposal would immediately free up land for 110,000 new homes to be built. Loosening planning rules could eventually lead to multiples of it being built, according to developers.

“A presumption in favor of developing small lots for affordable housing could unlock thousands of lots to build hundreds of thousands [of] affordable housing across the country in the coming years,” said Paul Hackett, CEO of Borettslaget Optivo.

The equalization bill is the latest attempt to reshape the planning system with the aim of raising both housing numbers and building standards, following failed efforts by former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

But the proposals have been contentious and the passage of the bill marred by conflict, which has split MPs in Tory heartlands, who are largely opposed to easing rules, from those in the “red wall” seats won from Labor at the last election , who prefer a more liberal approach.

Earlier this month, the group pushed former housing secretary Michael Gove to scrap mandatory housing targets.

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