The Queen’s speech today touched on the UK government’s commitment to ‘levelling up’ the country, part of which includes a regeneration bill to help increase housing stock.

The speech, read by Prince Charles, reiterated the UK government’s plan for the year ahead, which includes the introduction of planning reforms, helping more people to own their own homes and an improvement to the rights of tenants within social housing.

Reforming and improving the slow and cumbersome planning process would be welcome if it were not for the fact that successive governments have had several stabs at doing so - usually via big punchy headlines that rarely come to fruition,” said James Forrester, managing director of property developer StripeHomes.

“Remember Garden Towns and Garden Villages? In fact, the last reforms announced were swiftly jettisoned when rural Conservative MPs objected to the less democratic means proposed by Robert Jenrick, whereby towns could designate areas as ‘automatic consent areas’ that would not require the local authority to assess consent.

“The graveyard of Westminster housing policy announcements is full to bursting with discarded headlines and the likelihood is that many of today’s will end up there as well,” Forrester said.

Roger Clarke, the CEO of property securities exchange IPSX, said it is absolutely right that the government should continue to prioritise improving Britain’s infrastructure, transport and quality of housing by levelling up the imbalance between London and the regions.

“But public investment is only one piece of the puzzle; the private sector, and particularly the real estate industry, has an equally important role to play in supporting the regions’ growth by creating more opportunities for local development and regeneration.

“It’s not just the right thing to do for the sake of a fairer and more balanced society and all of the benefits that brings – if the government is successful in its mission, it makes good commercial sense too.”

“Whilst we naturally welcome the inclusion of the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill and its aim to increase the supply of homes, we believe the government can still go further to unlock homeownership for the next generation, according to Marc Vlessing, the CEO of affordable housing developer Pocket Living.

It is an unprecedented time for the industry, Vlessing said, adding that the combination of rising living costs and the increasingly complex nature of the planning system risks hampering the next generation of homeowners.

”In our response to the white paper earlier this year, we called for a better utilisation of brownfield land within towns and cities with good transport connectivity and a greater role for SME developers in delivering new homes.

”In the emerging detail it is very positive to see that the government appears to be listening to our calls, which if enacted through the adoption of a policy proposal we have devised, could deliver as many as 30,000 new affordable homes per year on small sites,” Vlessing said.

“If ‘empowering local leaders to regenerate their areas’ means forcing landlords to rent out empty shops, I question whether this will have much of a positive impact on local communities,” said Gregory Simms, legal director at Addleshaw Goddard.

“It’s unlikely that tenants will be willing to locate businesses in many secondary and tertiary locations, particularly if there’s low footfall. Many landlords already offer these spaces at nil or nominal rent, but there remains a lack of interest due to business rates and other expenses that a tenant would incur. How is forcing landlords to do so going to change the position?”

Simms believes a lot of people in the property industry will be left guessing what today’s announcements actually mean to them.

“Residential tenants will have been happy to see the government commit to improved rights for tenants and presumably an end to no-fault evictions. I think the latter is likely to face resistance from landlords unless grounds for possession are sufficiently strengthened to allow them flexibility to manage their property,” Simms said.

Josie Parson, CEO of affordable housing provider Local Space, said: “With the country being plunged into the worst cost-of-living crisis in recent times, and with many households already facing the stark choice between heating, eating, or paying for their home, it is more vital than ever that the government makes the delivery of affordable housing a key part of its levelling-up agenda.

“As well as further reform to the planning system and supporting the economy across all parts of the country, there must also be significant additional investment to provide more affordable housing, especially social rent. Local authorities need further resources to address the impending homelessness crisis, especially within London.”

Félicie Krikler, a director at Assael Architecture, said the government’s approach to levelling up appears half-hearted in both detail and design. We’re still no clearer on what the regeneration agenda will look like, what role London and the South East will play, and the extent to which the development sector will support the government’s commitment to deliver 300,000 new homes each year. Piecemeal reforms, such as street votes, are sticking plasters, at a time when the planning system needs urgent review.

“An emphasis on locally-led design is welcome, as communities seek to capture and codify their identity and appeal. Councils and communities will now have a greater voice in what good development should look like, amidst criticism that developers compromise aesthetics and green space for density.

“The critical issue here is how this will work in practice, whether councils have sufficient resources, and whether design-by-committee will slow progress towards solving our housing crisis.”

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