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UK to guarantee institutional investment in housing

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UK - The UK government is moving to boost institutional investment in housing with a package of measures including £200m (€252m) of state investment in housing sites to get new rental homes on the market.

It plans to give a guarantee of up to £40bn for major infrastructure projects and £10bn for new homes.

Other proposals include fast-tracking thousands of residential and commercial projects currently in the planning system, promoting office-to-residential conversions and the creation of a taskforce to bring developers, management bodies and institutional investors together to broker deals and deliver more rented homes.

The initiative comes in the wake of the Montague report into barriers to institutional investment in private-rented housing.

In a statement, the secretary of state for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles said: "We invited Sir Adrian Montague to report on the barriers to institutional investment and intend to take up Sir Adrian's key recommendation."

Published at the end of last month, the report warned of an undersupply of large-scale projects and said investors were probably being put off funding assets at the development stage.

Because the need for affordable housing remains high, the government will extend the use of guarantees to deliver more affordable homes, Pickles said.

"Building on the success of the Affordable Homes Programme, the government will invite bids to provide up to an additional 15,000 affordable homes through the use of loan guarantees, asset management flexibilities and capital funding," he said.

"We also intend to extend our successful refurbishment programme to bring an additional 5,000 existing empty homes back into use. In total, we will invest another £300m."

The Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Bill would include guaranteeing the debt of housing associations and private sector developers, the government said.

It also plans to put surplus public sector land back into use.

Disposals would be hastened by preparing the land for market and providing a single 'shop window' for all surplus public sector land, Pickles said.

Legislation would be put in place to allow planning applications to be decided by the Planning Inspectorate, if the local authority had a track record of consistently poor performance in the speed or quality of its decisions, he said.

"In addition, we intend to give planning inspectors more power to initiate an award of costs in planning appeal proceedings, where it is clear that an application has not been handled as it should have been with due process," he said.

The British Property Federation (BPF) welcomed the raft of measures, but raised concerns about fast-tracking planning for major developments.

Liz Peace, BPF chief executive, said: "Taken together, these measures will certainly provide a shot in the arm for house building."

But they would only solve housing issues if accompanied by a significant package of other measures, she said.

"House builders are not on strike; they are simply not building because there are few people in a position to buy, or seeking to move," Pearce said.

Taking major developments out of the planning system could place additional pressure on the Planning Inspectorate and the IPC (Infrastructure Planning Commission), the organisation warned.

Residential property owner and manager Grainger described the plans to support build-to-rent as a major victory following years of lobbying.

The company's executive property director Nick Jopling, said: "With the support announced today, Grainger will help lead the way to creating a viable built-to-rent sector, attracting institutional investment.

"Building quality homes for long-term rent will be a game-changer for the UK housing market, and it will address the huge and growing demand for privately renting."

Jopling is also a member of the Montague review group.

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