Welcome to your March edition of the Fish Need Water newsletter!

Here's what we've got coming up:

  • The long-awaited Housing White Paper is here! Are you excited?
  • All the latest need-to-know news.
  • Top tool: Shapr

The White Paper: what does it mean?

While we're not quite sure what a "damp squib" actually is, we have a feeling it can be used to accurately describe February's Housing White Paper.

After months of delay and anticipation, the general consensus was… meh. We weren't expecting much in the way of detail (white papers are more about providing a broad overview on how the government will act on an issue), but we were hoping for something a little bit less feeble.

Here's a summary of what the Housing White Paper proposes:

"Getting the right homes built in the right places"

Councils will be forced to provide comprehensive local plans calculating their housing needs, which will have to be revisited every five years. It puts the onus on councils to both anticipate demand and build to accommodate it – and if they don't, they'll, erm, be in trouble. Or something.

Cut the time local authorities have to approve planning applications

It will go down from three years to two – which seems like a step in the right direction for dealing with the current shortage of properties.

But as Simon Gerrard, past president of the National Association of Estate Agents, points out: "It is not the timescale that hinders building across the UK, but the planning system itself. All too often, permission is granted that is simply impossible to implement because local government departments do not communicate effectively with each other."

Encouraging smaller builders

The government will create a £3 billion fund that provides loans to SME builders and custom builders (among others), to help them get a foot in the door and compete with the big developers who are currently hogging all the work.

This is perhaps the boldest step of the White Paper, but it's still pretty weak: will new building companies find the fund tempting enough to enter the market? And will they be expected to conform to strict conditions when it comes to the types of homes they create, where they create them, and how much they sell them for?

Green belt protected

The government reaffirmed its commitment to protecting the green belt, while promising to release more publicly owned brownfield land so that developers can build there, instead.

It also plans to stop firms from land banking – where land is bought and "sat on" while house prices and land values rise. The way to do this, the government says, is to make personal ownership details publicly available on the Land Registry – i.e. naming and shaming. This measure doesn't feel like the most effective method in the world, but we'll have to wait and see if it does anything.

And there you have it: the main gist of the White Paper. Given just how dire the housing situation has become (especially in London), we were hoping for more creative ways to encourage more house building – which will lead to more supply, lower prices, more properties for landlords to buy and rent out at affordable rates, and more opportunities for people to get on the housing ladder.

It's possible that these plans, with a little bit more meat on their bones, will turn into the revolutionary market-changing ideas we've been expecting. As they currently stand, it feels like pretty much more of the same lame nothingness. (The good news, at least, is that the government seems to have laid off landlords. For once.)

Want to talk to us about anything in the Housing White Paper and how it will affect you specifically? Give us a call on 020 3199 3492.

Property news

Here's what's been going on:

Here's why buying a London property is probably one of the best investments you can ever make. The upside of the housing crisis.

Monaco to London: how far will $1m go when buying prime property? But if you thought London was expensive…

Squatters occupying £17 million property yards from Buckingham Palace face eviction. And they've been branded a risk to the Queen's security.

Luxury flat hits the market for five times LESS than the average Mayfair price. It's stunning, but there's one small catch…

Our useful tool of the month: Shapr

Ah we've missed those startup names with missing vowels! Shapr is basically "Tinder for business": swipe left or right to make heaps of interesting business contacts around the country (and world).

Check it out here.

The end! (Until next month.)