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Housing and Homes

Part of Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:02 pm on 15th May 2018.

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Photo of John Penrose John Penrose Conservative, Weston-Super-Mare 5:02 pm, 15th May 2018

I would be delighted to accept my hon. Friend’s invitation.

Fortunately we do not need a new tax, which Dr Drew mentioned, to achieve this value acquisition. Here’s one we prepared earlier—the community infrastructure levy. The levy nearly does what we need and could easily be tweaked so that it does what we need by making it simpler and broader with fewer exemptions. It would be simpler, faster, cheaper and more predictable for developers, planners and landowners alike. Best of all, the revised community infrastructure levy would completely replace the hideously overcomplicated section 106 agreements, with all their uncertainty, unpredictability and lawyer-friendly viability assessments.

Finally, in order to get developers building faster, councils should be able to charge business rates and council tax starting from the day that planning permission is granted, rather than when developers finally get round to start building. We could give big developers a few months’ grace to get their crews on site, but then the meter would start running. They would have a huge incentive to build and sell promptly, rather than to take their time.

Equally important, the same forces would apply to the hedge funds that own derelict brownfield land in town and city centres. These sites already have old, unused permissions, so the clock would start ticking immediately. Just think of the enormous shot in the arm—the jolt of adrenaline—that we would give to urban regeneration projects everywhere, right across the country, if the owners could no longer sit on them for years waiting for something to turn up.

As the Government’s housing White Paper says, the only way to make homes more affordable to rent or buy is to build a whole lot more of them. I agree. There is no time to waste, otherwise house prices will continue to spiral and we will lock another generation out of the dream of a place of their own.