LGA Housing Commission | Tackling the #HousingCrisis

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No.602 | August 2016

Tackling the housing crisis

The LGA’s Housing Commission has launched its first report, looking at the wider benefits of allowing councils to build more homes.

The nation’s housing crisis demands action. Spiralling house prices are forcing difficult choices on families, distorting the housing mix in local areas, and hampering growth. Every local area is different, and housing challenges and their solutions are complex and vary around the country. There is no silver bullet.

Councils want to build homes, and see homes as central to driving growth and propserity. Local authorities are approving 9 in 10 planning applications, providing homes that are needed and are affordable, and that create environments where people are healthy and happy.

The LGA set up a Housing Commission last year to explore how a renewed investment in the different new homes that people need can deliver significant wider benefits for communities, and prevent future public service challenges and costs.

Over the the past 8 months it has heard from developers, planners, charities, health partners, housing associations and many others. Its early findings were published at the the LGA’s Annual Conference in Bournemouth in July.

The Commission’s scope has been beyond bricks and mortar. It has been looking at 4 key themes:

  • how to build more homes;
  • how to create prosperous places;
  • how housing can boost employment; and
  • how it can support our ageing poplulation.

Its interim report, Building our homes, communities and the future: Preliminary findings from the LGA Housing Commissionfinds councils should be enabled to help build more homes that plug gaps in the market, particularly building the next generation of affordable homes, homes meeting the needs of those in crisis, and to support our ageing population.

Cllr Peter Box, LGA Housing spokesman said: “Our Housing Commission aims to build on what we know works so that councils and our partners can lead the building of homes, communities and prosperity for future generations.

“Bold new action is needed in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, and local government must come together around our joint ambition to build homes and strong inclusive communities.

“Investment in housing has significant wider benefits and we want to build the right homes in the right places that can generate growth and jobs, help meet the needs of our ageing population, and provide the infrastructure, schools and hospitals that enable communities to thrive.

“We must be freed to make this change happen.”

The work of the Commission continues, and its findings and evidence will come together in a final report later this year.

This will form the basis for LGA activity with councils and our partners, alongside other priority areas such as responding to national building reforms, improving conditions in the private rented sector, and supporting efforts to reduce homelessness.

Housing Commission report – at a glance

1. How to build more homes
The last time the country built more than the 250,000 houses a year it is estimated the country needs was in 1977/78 – when councils built 44% of new homes.

Private developers have only been able to build an average of 90,000 a year since 2009/10. In 2013/14, this represented 77% of all new homes. In comparison, councils were only able to build 1% of all new homes in the same year.

The Commission recommends:

  • Government should provide national backing for new local government housing delivery models building new and different types of homes, which could include new intermediate rent, rent-to-buy, modular housing and co-housing options.
  • This must coincide with a revitalisation of council house building by allowing councils to keep a greater proportion of Right to Buy receipts, and to combine receipts with Homes and Community Agency funding.

2. How to create prosperous places
Housing investment has substantial wider benefits for people and places. It has a vital role to play in improving health, creating jobs, boosting educational attainment, and enabling social cohesion.

The Commission recommends:

  • Allowing councils to set planning fees locally so that they can cover costs, and continue to develop a proactive planning approach for unlocking housing growth
  • Developing powers for councils to ensure homes are built on sites where planning permission has been granted but building may have stalled.

3. How housing can boost employment
A good mix of housing stock is critical in attracting both employers and workers to an area, and housing providers play a leading role in helping their residents to gain the skills to find jobs and progress in their careers.

4m working people will need access to some type of affordable housing even if the country achieves full employment by 2024, new research published by the LGA reveals.

Widespread demand for affordable homes will be much higher should the country fail to train millions to take the higher skilled and higher paid jobs that are projected to be created by 2024.

The Government can support this by:

  • Actively devolving the key responsibilities and services to encourage economic growth such as housing infrastructure, skills, and employment support.
  • New partnership commitments at the national and local level should be forged to increase the mix of homes, alongside new approaches for supporting households that need help to find work, improve skills and increase their earnings.

4. How housing can support our ageing population
Between 2008 and 2033 around 60% of projected household growth will be made up of households with someone aged 65 or older.

The aspirations and needs of older people are growing and diversifying, and there is a need to plan the mix of housing that responds to demographic change and creates inclusive communities.

The Commission recommends:

  • Creating a new market for homes that are attractive and suitable for older people and better able to meet health needs which, in turn, would release more family homes into the local market. A sustainable funding model needs to be established to provide more supported housing options for vulnerable people
  • The Government develop a viable funding model that enables local housing and health partners to increase the mix of quality specialised and supported housing options to rent and buy for older and vulnerable people
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