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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LGA Summary | Housing and Planning Act 2016

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13 May 2016

Housing and Planning Act 2016 

BACKGROUND 
On Thursday 12 May, the Housing and Planning Act received Royal Assent. The Housing and Planning Bill (the Bill) was introduced in the House of Commons on 13 October 2015 by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP. It followed an announcement made in the 2015 Queen’s Speech that “legislation will be introduced to support home ownership and give housing association tenants the chance to own their own home.”1

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 (the Act) contains provisions on new homes (including starter homes), landlords and property agents, abandoned premises, social housing (including extending the Right to Buy to housing association tenants; sale of local authority assets; ‘pay-to-stay’; secure tenancies), planning, compulsory purchase, and public land (duty to dispose).

The full text of the Act will be available here

KEY AMENDMENTS 
The LGA worked with a number of MPs and peers during the passage of the Bill to provide background information and research on the proposals, support and table amendments to the legislation.

Our campaigning on behalf of local government, developed with the support from and input of councils from across the country, led to a number of positive changes in the final Act.

Higher value council homes 
 The Act requires councils to sell higher value housing as it falls vacant. We worked with parliamentarians to put on the face of the Bill a requirement to ensure that where the Government makes an agreement with a local authority outside London about building new homes, at least one new affordable home is provided for each dwelling that is assumed to be sold.

 Parliamentarians secured a commitment from the Government that the change of wording from ‘high’ to ‘higher’ value would not be used to raise additional funds from local government.

 Peers sought to include a clarification that councils would be able to retain sufficient receipts from the sales to fund the provision of a replacement property, but this was overturned.

Secure tenancies 
 Enabling local authorities to grant longer-term tenancies of up to 10 years in certain circumstances with potential for longer tenancies for families with children. The legislation originally limited this to five years, with no concession for families with children.

Starter homes discounts 
 The Government will introduce in regulations restrictions around the resale of Starter Homes so that owners cannot ‘cash in’ the discount after a few years. The regulations may prevent the home being sold at full price for a specified period of time, or could require the seller to make a payment to the Secretary of State, local planning authority or another specified person.

Pay to stay 
 For tenants above the high income thresholds (‘pay to stay’), rent increases will be tapered. Every £1 they earn above the threshold will mean a 15p increase. The income thresholds will increase annually in line with CPI. Amendments that would have increased the income threshold to £40,000 (and £50,000 in London) were overturned.

 The Government committed to councils being able to keep the costs of administering pay to stay and to consider exemptions where the costs outweigh the additional rent collected.

Competition in processing planning applications 
 The Government will carry out time-limited pilots on competition in processing planning applications, which will be fully evaluated.

The LGA Chairman Lord Porter spoke on the role of local government in housing provision in a number of the debates. The LGA also worked closely with our President and Vice-Presidents, as well as a large number of MPs and peers from all political parties, to update and inform throughout all stages on the legislation.

GET IN ON THE ACT 
The LGA will produce a Get in on the Act guide to the legislation shortly, summarising the impact of the legislation on local government and the work of the LGA in influencing the legislation as it passed through Parliament.
http://www.local.gov.uk/get-in-on-the-act

FURTHER READING:
LGA Amendment Statement: Housing and Planning Bill – Lords consideration of amendments [04 May 2016]

LGA BriefingHousing and Planning Bill – Consideration of amendments [May 2016]

LGA First | Helping residents in the private rented sector

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April 2016

Helping residents in the private rented sector

Betsy Dillner

Over the past decade, the housing market has undergone an earthquake. With house prices out of reach in much of the country and a shortage of social housing, increasing numbers of people have no option but to rent from a private landlord. As a result, the population in the private rented sector has doubled in the past decade, and now outnumber social tenants.

The response of local authorities to this trend has been mixed. Some have long recognised the challenges facing increasing numbers of their residents, from rents costing more than half a household’s income to chronic negligence of landlords towards the condition of their properties. A number of pioneering councils have introduced landlord licensing to streamline the enforcement process, and are thinking creatively about how to build more housing at social rents.

But conversations Generation Rent has had with councillors and tenants reveal that some in local government still have a lot of catching up to do. Often we get the impression that the only people they’re interested in are council tenants and leaseholders, despite the fact that more of their constituents rent from a private landlord – including many on council estates.

This is understandable given that local authorities have a lot more power and responsibility over their own stock, but it seems easy for them to forget that it’s also their job to enforce standards in private rented housing. One tenant told us that after months of trying and failing to get her landlord to fix a leak in her bedroom she, quite reasonably, called the council’s housing department. Instead of passing her on to environmental health, they just advised her on how to apply for social housing.

Another tenant related a conversation he’d had with a council candidate who was out canvassing. Asked what he would do for the 1 in 3 local people who rented privately, the candidate rambled enthusiastically about “staircasing”. He didn’t win. [NOTE to councillors: of you say this word to private renters, they’re more likely to think you’re talking about the landlord finally fixing that loose bit of carpet on the way to the first floor].

To be fair to councils and their members, they might not have taken notice of private renters because we’re not a loud presence in local politics. Private renters have no idea whether they’ll still be living in the same borough – let alone the same home – in a year’s time, so they are less likely to be engaged in their local community, and less likely to coalesce into local renter groups in the same way that social tenants have.

This has been changing over the past few years, with groups emerging in boroughs that have seen rapid change in the housing market; including inner London, Oxford and Brighton. Generation Rent is a national group giving these local groups a voice in the national debate, and nurturing campaigns where tenants need representation.

One activity we have on a local level is research into letting agents and the fees they charge through the website www.lettingfees.co.uk. Local authorities have responsibility to ensure that letting agents publish their fees, so we hope that this will be a resource for them as well as local flat-hunters. The research will also help bring together local activists, and help develop a relationship between the council and its private renter population.

And with local authorities set to gain powers and resources from the Housing & Planning Bill, we hope they start giving local renters in the private sector the attention they need.

Betsy Dillner is Director of Generation Rent

For more information about Generation Rent visit www.generationrent.org

 

LGA | Unpacking *Purdha*

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Purdah: A short guide to publicity during the pre-election period

Introduction

In response to requests from council communications teams to produce simple guidance to communicating during the pre- election period (also known as ‘purdah’), we are publishing this short, updated guide.

This document provides advice on the publicity restrictions that should be observed during the purdah period. It should be read in conjunction with any guidance produced by your own Returning Officer or Monitoring Officer, which provides specific advice depending on your local circumstances.

The term ‘purdah’ has come into popular use across central and local government to describe the period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on communications activity are in place. The term ‘pre-election period’ is also used.

2016 Local Elections

Many authorities will have elections on 5 May 2016, including parish and town councils, borough or district and unitary, and police and crime commissioner elections.

The latest date that purdah can start is 30 March 2016. Local government sometimes views this period as a time when communications has to shut down completely. This is not the case, and the ordinary functions of councils should continue, but some restrictions do apply, by law, to all councillors and officers.

The Code

The Government published a new Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity in 2011. The Code is based around seven principles to ensure that all communications activity:
• is lawful
• is cost effective
• is objective
• is even-handed
• is appropriate
• has regard to equality and diversity
• is issued with care during periods of heightened sensitivity.

This last principle, to ensure special care is taken during periods of heighted sensitivity is of particular relevance during the pre- election period.

Legal basis and official guidance

The pre-election restrictions are governed by Section 2 of the Local Government Act 19861, as amended in 19882. Essentially councils should “not publish any material which, in whole or in part, appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party.

Section 43 of the Act makes clear that councils need to have regard for the code of recommended practice that supports the Act. A new code of practice was published in 20114 which replaced all previous guidance. The essential points from the code are:
• In general you should not issue any publicity which seeks to influence voters (an exception being situations covered by legislation or regulations directing publication of information about referendums for explanatory purposes, for example promoting the existence of the referendum and explaining how to take part).
• Particular care should be taken during the pre-election period to abide by the Act.
• Consider suspending hosting third party material or closing public forums if these are likely to breach the codes of practice.
• Do not publish any publicity on controversial issues or report views on proposals in a way which identifies them with individual councillors or groups of councillors.
• Publicity relating to individuals involved directly in the election should not be published unless expressly authorised by statute.
• You are allowed to publish factual information which identifies the names, wards and parties of candidates at elections.

Although this new code supersedes the previous versions and may seem less specific, in practice your conduct should be similar to previous elections.

What this means in practice

Publicity is defined as “any communication, in whatever form, addressed to the public at large or to a section of the public.”

The first question to ask is ‘could a reasonable person conclude that you were spending public money to influence the outcome of the election?’ In other words it must pass the ‘is it reasonable’ test. When making your decision, you should consider the following:

You should not:
• produce publicity on matters which are politically controversial
• make references to individual politicians or groups in press releases
• arrange proactive media or events involving candidates
• issue photographs which include candidates
• supply council photographs or other materials to councillors or political group staff unless you have verified that they will not be used for campaigning purposes
• continue hosting third party blogs or e-communications
• help with national political visits (as this would involve using public money to support a particular candidate or party). These should be organised by political parties with no cost or resource implications for the council.

You should also think carefully before you:
• Continue to run campaign material to support your own local campaigns. If the campaign is already running and is non-controversial (for example, on issues like recycling or foster care) and would be a waste of public money to cancel or postpone them, then continue. However, you should always think carefully if a campaign could be deemed likely to influence the outcome of the election and you should not use councillors in press releases and events in pre-election periods. In such cases you should stop or defer them. An example might be a campaign on an issue which has been subject of local political debate and/or disagreement.
• Launch any new consultations. Unless it is a statutory duty, don’t start any new consultations or publish report findings from consultation exercises, which could be politically sensitive.
You are allowed to:
• Continue to discharge normal council business (including determining planning applications, even if they are controversial).
• Publish factual information to counteract misleading, controversial or extreme (for example, racist/sexist information). An example might be a media story which is critical of the council, such as a media enquiry claiming that the salaries of all the council’s senior managers have increased by five per cent. If this is not true, a response such as ‘none of the council’s senior management team have received any increase in salary in the last 12 months’ is acceptable. It is perfectly right and proper that the council responds, as long as it is factual.
• Use relevant lead officers rather than members for reactive media releases.
• Use a politician who is involved in an election when the council is required to respond in particular circumstances, such as in an emergency situation or where there is a genuine need for a member-level response to an important event beyond the council’s control. Normally this would be the civic mayor (as opposed to the elected mayor in those areas with elected mayors) or chairman (that is, someone holding a politically neutral role). If the issue is so serious, it is worth considering asking the council’s group leaders to agree to a response which would involve all of them.
• If you are in any doubt, seek advice from your Returning Officer and/or Monitoring Officer, legal or communications colleagues.

Ultimately, you must always be guided by the principle of fairness. It is crucial that any decision you take would be seen as fair and reasonable by the public and those standing for office.

Further guidance

You can find more information from the following:
• referring to advice published by your Returning Officer or Monitoring Officer
• the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity
• the LGcommunications leaflet, Cracking the Code
• annex A – template letter to councillors.


LGA - Purdah FAQ 01

LGA - Purdah FAQ 02

Acknowledgements

The LGA would like to thank LGcommunications, Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council and Eastleigh Borough Council in the creation of this document.

Annex A : Template letter for sending to councillors

Dear Councillor

Guidelines and restrictions on decision making and publicity during the pre-election period

As you will be aware, the local elections are due to take place on 5 May 2016, so I thought it would be useful to remind you about the guidelines and restrictions on publicity during the pre- election period that starts on XXXX date. These restrictions apply to all elections happening during this period.

From the start of the pre-election period (‘purdah’), the council must comply with restrictions outlined in Section 2 of the Local Government Act 1986. In addition a Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity published in 2011 makes clear that particular care should be taken in periods of heightened sensitivity, such as in the run up to an election. The Act defines publicity as “any communication, in whatever form, addressed to the public at large or to a section of the public.”

Generally, the Act says that we should “not publish any material which, in whole, or in part, appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party.” The Code of Practice recommends that authorities should generally not issue any publicity which seeks to influence voters and that publicity relating to individuals involved directly in the election should not be published unless expressly authorised by statute.

Decision making

In relation to decision making within the council, the position remains that it is ‘business as usual’ unless there are very good reasons why this should not be the case. In the vast majority of cases, the pre-election period will have no impact on normal council business, including the approval of planning decisions.

What this means

• The primary restriction is on proactive publicity by the council which particularly relates to candidates and other politicians involved directly in the election.

• The council can still issue media releases on factual matters provided that these do not identify individual councillors or groups of councillors.

• Councillorsarestillfreetorespondtoenquiriesreceivedfromthemediainapersonalcapacity.

• Individual councillors can issue their own statements, write letters to the local newspaper(s) for publication, contact the media directly or say what they like in a personal capacity, but must not use council resources to do so.

It is still possible for the council to issue statements on behalf of a councillor holding a key political or civic position provided it relates to important events which are outside the council’s control and can be shown to justify a member response. These occasions are likely to be rare and to be the exception, rather than the rule.

I hope this letter provides you with the general information you need for the pre-election period, but if you have specific concerns or queries, please feel free to contact xxxx.

Yours sincerely

LGA First | The future of housing

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January 2016

The future of housing

The LGA has launched a Housing Commission to explore new ways in which councils can enable the building of more homes

Cllr Peter Box CBE

Councils built nine times more homes between 2010 and 2015 than between 2000 and 2005, and are desperate to dramatically increase the availability of new homes in their local areas.

This is vital to building the 230,000 new homes the country needs each year, as private developers have not buolt more than 150,000 a year for more than three decades.

The LGA’s recently announced Housing Commission will set out a forward-looking vision for the future of housing, and explore new routes to housebuilding so councils can enable the creation of more desperately needed homes.

It will also explore the importance of effective housing in boosting jobs and growth, helping meet the needs of an ageing population, saving social care and the NHS money, and helping people into work.

It will focus on four themes:

  • House building – new ways that councils can enable investment in new homes;
  • Place making, community and infrastructure – the role of councils in shaping homes within prosperous places and communities;
  • Employment, welfare reform and social mobility – the role of housing in supporting tenants to find work; and
  • Health and quality of life for an ageing population – the role of housing in adapting to an ageing poplulation and preventing onward costs onto social care  and health services

We are looking for evidence on the key issues for communities, partners and councils, on good practice that has successfully addressed those issues, and what is needed to build on those successes.

We want councils, partners, organisations, and individuals to contribute their issues, evidence, and examples of effective housing and ideas to the Commission’s Advisory Panel, made up of examples and academics [see below[.

The Commission will take a medium-term view incorporating current housing reforms but will look beyond them in making the case for councils to be able to deliver the homes our communities and places need.

We’re working with Ministers to ensure housing and planning reforms support council efforts to build more homes, and the Housing Commission will investigate how the Government and councils can help to deliver houses to solve our housing shortage.

Councils must be able to play a lead role in building the homes we desperately need, and building the homes in a way that creates prosperous places and growth, helps people into work, and positively adapts to an ageing population.

This is the best way to meet local and central government ambitions for our communities, to reduce waiting lists and housing benefit, keep rents low, and help more people live long and happy lives.

Fact file 

The Housing Commission is led by Town Hall leaders on the LGA Housing Board supported by an expert Advisory Panel including:

  • Catherine Hand, Partner, Trowers and Hamlins
  • Chris Wood, Partner, Altair
  • Dave Simmonds OBE, Chief Executive, Inclusion
  • Professor Jo Richardson, Director of Centre for Comparative Housing Research
  • Neil Revely, Chair of ADASS Housing Network
  • Sue Adams OBE, Chief Executive of Care and Repair England
  • Will Colthorpe, Argent LLP, Chair of British Property Federation Development Committee

All contributions to the work of the Commission are welcome.

If you wish to make a submission.please send no more than 3,000 words to:
LGAhousingcommission@local.gov.uk
before 26 February 2016.

The Commission’s findings will be published in the Spring and presented at the LGA’s Annual Conference in July.

Cllr Peter Box CBE is Chair of LGA’s Environment, Economy, Housing & Transport Board

 

LGA | Housing Commission launched

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02 December 2015

Housing commission launched to investigate new routes to housebuilding

The Local Government Association is today launching a Housing Commission to explore new routes to housebuilding so councils can enable the building of more desperately-needed homes.

Councils built nine times more homes between 2010 and 2015 than between 2000 and 2005 and are desperate to dramatically increase the availability of new homes in their local areas.

The LGA said this is vital to building the 230,000 new homes the country needs each year as private developers have not built more than 150,000 homes a year for more than three decades.

The Housing Commission will also explore the importance of effective housing in boosting jobs and growth, helping meeting needs of an ageing population, saving social care and the NHS money, and helping people into work. It will focus on four themes:

  • Housebuilding – new ways that councils can enable investment in new homes;
  • Place making, community and infrastructure – the role of councils in shaping homes within prosperous places and communities;
  • Employment, welfare reform and social mobility – the role of housing in supporting tenants to find and progress in sustained employment;
  • Health and quality of life for an ageing population – the role of housing in adapting to an ageing population and preventing onward costs onto social care and health services.

Evidence is sought on the key issues for communities, partners and councils, on good practice that has successfully addressed those issues, and what is needed to build on those successes. Councils, partners, organisations and individuals to contribute their issues, evidence, and examples of effective housing and ideas to the Commission’s Advisory Panel, made up of experts and academics.

The Commission will take a medium-term view incorporating current housing reforms but will look beyond them in making the case for councils to be able to deliver the homes our communities and places need. Findings will be brought together in a report in Spring 2016 and presented at the LGA Annual Conference in June 2016.

Cllr Peter Box, LGA Housing Spokesman, said:

“We’re working with government to ensure housing and planning reforms support council efforts to build more homes and the Housing Commission we are launching today will investigate how the Government and councils can help deliver houses to solve our housing shortage.

“Councils must be able to play a lead role in building the homes we desperately need, and building the homes in a way that create prosperous places and growth, help people into work and positively adapt to an ageing population.

“This is the best way to meet local and central government ambitions for our communities, to reduce waiting lists and housing benefit, keep rents low and help more people live long and happy lives.”

Notes

The Housing Commission is led by Town Hall leaders on the LGA Housing Board supported by an expert Advisory Panel including:

  • Catherine Hand, Partner, Trowers and Hamlins
  • Chris Wood, Partner, Altair
  • Dave Simmonds OBE, Chief Executive, Inclusion
  • Professor Jo Richardson, De Montfort University, Director, Centre for Comparative Housing Research
  • Neil Revely, Chair of ADASS Housing Network
  • Sue Adams OBE, Chief Executive of Care and Repair England
  • Will Colthorpe, Argent LLP, Chair of British Property Federation Development Committee

We welcome all contributions before the 26 February 2016. Please send submissions of no more than 3,000 words to LGAhousingcommission@local.gov.uk.