Last week, the Prime Minister set out planned laws for this session of Parliament in the Queen’s Speech. The creation of a ‘stronger, healthier and more prosperous nation’ was a core theme, but what did it mean for Build to Rent and the wider real estate sector?
The Government’s planning consultation last year focused on housing and digitalisation, and a Bill will follow-up on commitments to legislate. The intention will be to build more homes and deliver infrastructure projects more quickly. Measures to improve speed and certainty in planning would be welcome, but there’s a need to ensure that this is accompanied by diversity of tenure.
Seemingly there may be elements of the Bill that bring forward reforms to the rental market in England. Likely these will focus on raising the floor level of standards across the wider PRS, following the higher standards already observed in BTR.
White Paper on Levelling Up
Levelling up was a key theme of the Government’s manifesto at the last election. No legislation was promised in the Queen’s Speech. Instead a White Paper (essentially a paper containing a set of firm proposals for consultation) will be issued. MP Neil O’ Brien has been appointed to spearhead the effort. The White Paper will include ‘policy interventions to improve livelihoods and opportunity in all parts of the UK as we recover from the pandemic, grasping the opportunities of Brexit.’ For BTR, the part to watch is a commitment to increased infrastructure spending.
National Infrastructure Plan
There were commitments at Spending Review 2020 to a new Infrastructure Bank and to £100bn of capital investment in 21/22. The Bank is expected to support £40bn of infrastructure investment when it launches later this year in its Leeds HQ.
Investment in infrastructure is a proven contributor to productivity in general, as well as the resilience and viability of places. Measures to invest in infrastructure are welcome, but there’s a clear need to ensure that such investment goes to the places where that funding will be additional.
The Government intends to streamline EU regulations relating to procurement with an emphasis on enabling innovation and ease of use.
The Government’s recent consultation on procurement only recently closed in March and the Government is considering responses. However, it is likely that a single uniform regulatory framework for procurement across utilities, public contracts and others will result. There are also likely to be enhancements to obligations on contracting authorities to promote social value in contracts.
Building Safety Bill
As expected, the Bill will intend to address the current regime for building safety, introduce a new Building Safety Regulator and building on the findings of the Hackitt Review of Building Safety.
Buildings over seven storeys/18 metres will have obligations for accountable persons and duty holders around building and life safety. This is likely to entail obligations for many BTR owner operators of blocks of apartments.