To many, it gave the impression of a document that had been kicked around Whitehall and steadily watered down from what was probably once a radical policy paper. Many sectors were dismayed by the absence of significant change after such fanfare in the lead up to publication. However, one sector that does seem set to be strengthened and could go on to win big is Build-to-Rent (BtR).

The Government is proposing further warm planning policy wording to the sector through modifications to NPPF/NPPG and an alternative approach to BtR called Affordable Private Rent. A sister document (Planning and Affordable Housing for Build to Rent) was published alongside the White Paper, to obtain views on measures to support BtR through the Planning System by 1 May 2017. It is well worth making a representation if you have an interest in the sector.

The Case For Intervention
The Government is proposing further warm planning policy wording to the sector through modifications to NPPF/NPPG and an alternative approach to BtR called Affordable Private Rent. A sister document (Planning and Affordable Housing for Build to Rent) was published alongside the White Paper, to obtain views on measures to support BtR through the Planning System by 1 May 2017. It is well worth making a representation if you have an interest in the sector.

Crucially, the document highlights land acquisition, the negotiation of affordable housing agreements and the predictability and speed of planning decisions as key barriers for the sector. Even more crucially, the document acknowledges the risk of market and/or regulatory failure without Government intervention.The Government wants to know whether these risks warrant intervention to stimulate the sector and facilitate its growth.

National Planning Practice Framework and Guidance
The existing version of the NPPF seeks to widen opportunities for home ownership, without referencing the same objective for rent. As such, policies since its publication have continued to focus more on home ownership than rent, with Right to Buy and Starter Homes at the heart of election commitments.

While the complementary NPPG does reference housing to rent and the differences to build for sale, the document is unable to elaborate due to the need for consistency with the NPPF. Accordingly, the Government is consulting on a change to the NPPF that requires authorities to consider BtR at all stages of the planning process. Not in itself a silver bullet to the sector, but there could be significant positive outcomes if the new wording has the teeth to require authorities to meet the identified local need for BtR with specific land allocations.

Affordable Private Rent
While the complementary NPPG does reference housing to rent and the differences to build for sale, the document is unable to elaborate due to the need for consistency with the NPPF. Accordingly, the Government is consulting on a change to the NPPF that requires authorities to consider BtR at all stages of the planning process. Not in itself a silver bullet to the sector, but there could be significant positive outcomes if the new wording has the teeth to require authorities to meet the identified local need for BtR with specific land allocations.

The main benefit to developers is that this is likely to be classified as ‘affordable housing’, negating the need to provide alternative forms of affordable tenure. It will also provide certainty where there is currently considerable ambiguity.