There will now be a requirement for local authorities to provide "an honest assessment of housing need". Sounds perfectly reasonable. Until you realise that what it means is that central government will tell local authorities that they are not building enough homes and must build more.
When those developers build they are currently expected to make a contribution to local communities by making a developer contribution. This will be simplified. Or to use another word, reduced. So communities will get less back.
Indeed instead of gaining anything from all these excessive developments local communities will have the privilege of paying out more. Housing infrastructure will receive £2.3bn of government investment. Which sounds great. But what it actually means is the developers of all these new housing estates won't have to contribute anything to update the sewers or improve broadband connections. The taxpayer will cover that so they the development becomes more profitable.
The Green Belt will of course be protected. Who could possibly think that our government might not be keen on protecting that? Except in exceptional circumstances of course. Then development will be allowed where all other options have been explored and the new targets haven't been reached. In other words the Green Belt is no longer protected anywhere near as strongly as it currently is. The same is true of wildlife. If you happen to value local wildlife then you are not supposed to worry as there will be a strategic approach to the protection of it. Or in other words developers will soon be able to move it out of the way a lot more quickly so the bulldozers can move in.
It might be possible to think that at least all of this will deliver the homes we so badly need and do so quickly. Unfortunately the document completely fails to provide a clear needs analysis. So it will be the wrong homes that get built. Instead of a rigorous analysis of need and an insistence on delivering it we are subjected to a number of pious statements about the importance of the elderly and the need for more sheltered housing. As it happens the housing needs of growing numbers of elderly people are the major source of new demand for the foreseeable future. Something which is already putting huge pressure on the NHS when beds can't be freed up by people moving out into specialist accommodation. Instead of coherent plans to tackle this the White Paper just contains a few half hearted measures and the authors seem to work on the basic assumption that developers will build to need. It is well known that they won't. It is cheaper and more profitable to build larger executive homes than small starter homes and even less profitable to do so if those small homes are heavily adapted to suit those with mobility difficulties.
The document does claim to put in place strong measures should a developer fail to build on land once permission is granted. Then, as I predicted, it does nothing meaningful to enforce this. No attempt will be made to tax that land heavily. Instead they may be warned that a local authority may be able to withdraw permission to build if nothing has happened after two years. Locally to me the developer goes on to his site once every year to move a pile of rubble and then leaves it again for another year to let the house prices rise even further. The annual site activity day gets it classified as a site in the process of development. Nothing in the White Paper will stop that.
Perhaps most cynically of all the White Paper tells us that it is fixing our broken housing market by encouraging more building for rental. Private rental that is. There are proposals to help small and medium building companies enter the market. More taxpayers subsidies for the building industry. There are also a lot of statements about helping councils to build. As I predicted this comes with an insistence that their tenants will continue to be able to buy these homes at a significant discount thus making it very hard for local authorities to do so. I remain in favour of tenants buying homes. Indeed I favour the same rights going to tenants of private landlords. But I fail to see why one set of tenants is entitled to a subsidy to buy and the other isn't allowed to buy the occupied home at full market price. The government is doing nothing to fix this problem - unless you count continuing to try and force the right to buy onto Housing Associations via taxpayer subsidies.
To be fair and balanced I did finally find a few good things in the White Paper. Letting agency fees will be banned. Long overdue and well done. They already collect their income from the landlords and this removes a temptation to move good tenants on so that they can get another up front fee.
It is also important, in the interest of fairness and balance, to say openly that I was quite wrong about the government's efforts to provide tenants with 3 year rental agreements and some improved security in their lives. I thought these measures would be weak and feeble. I am now forced to admit that this was far too generous an assessment. The White Paper says that 3 year rental agreements are to "be encouraged" by government.
I am not entirely convinced that this is fully adequate to the scale of the problem. That's my own polite civil service language for what a load of cobblers!