APSE Direct News | Homes for all!

APSE Direct News Logo

May/June 20216

Homes for all!

Catch up on the latest housing research by APSE and the TCPA, which follows up on our previous research, Housing The Nation: Ensuring Councils can deliver more and better homes

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-13-29-00

The latest APSE housing research, Housing The Nation: Ensuring Councils can deliver more and better homesis a collaborative effort between the APSE[TCPA] and APSE. Our aim was to establish the latest position on housing across the UK and, crucially, find out how local councils could produce the homes needed to support everybody in their local community.

The latest household projections for England, published in November 2015, suggest we need over 220,000 additional homes each year until 20131 if we are to accommodate the projected growth in households. Currently, however, we are reaching just over half that figure. To catch up by 2020, we will now need to create over 310,000 homes a year over the next 5 years. This in itself is a stark finding; as the goal to provide enough homes slips further away each time we fail to meet these targets, the pressure on housing delivery is inevitably intensified.

Whilst Government policy has been concentrated on the delivery of so-called affordable homes, the research calls into question what we can reasonably describe as “affordable”. Housing shortages, and the resultant high prices and rents, mean that young people are living with parents or in house shares for longer, rather than forming a household of their own. Rising student debt levels and potential future welfare reform are likely to make their position even more difficult. Even if the homes required are actually built, the latest Government  household projections suggest that couples aged between 25 and 34 will be less able to live in their own home n 2031 than their counterparts in 2011.

Housing need has huge implications beyond those unable to afford to buy or rent their own property. Improved planning and better housing have long been identified as essential for improving the health of communities, reducing health inequalities and cutting costs for the taxpayer.

Conversely, poor quality housing and inadequate supply of new homes impacts on the social well-being of communities, with costs to the NHS reportedly at £1.4bn. A lack of decent affordable housing also reduces labour mobility and undermines the ability of our towns and cities to attract new businesses.

A recent CBI survey [London Business Survey, September 2015]highlighted that housing costs and availability in London were having a negative impact on companies’ ability to retain and recruit staff, particularly employees on lower incomes; 57% of businesses surveyed report that housing cost and availability was negatively impacting on attempts to recruit entry level staff.

So what are we, APSE and the TCPA, calling for? We want the Government to develop a housing strategy for the nation that provides decent homes for everyone in society, including those dependent on social and genuinely affordable housing for rent. Whilst efforts have been concentrated on affordable homes to buy, we want the Government to ensure that local authorities are at the heart of this new housing strategy, not least because the definition of “affordability” should be determined locally. Councils are best placed to respond to local need, but they require the freedom and flexibility to deliver new homes.

We are also calling upon Government to reverse its decision to reduce social rents by 1% per year for the next 4 years – this move alone has taken millions away from local authorities’ ability to invest in the social rented sector. The Housing and Planning Act 2016 arguably further removes councils from the equation, introducing new changes changes to Right To Buy and the selling off of the most valuable housing assets.

APSE and the TCPA believe that councils, despite the added burdens placed on them by the Housing and Planning Act, can play a stronger role in driving the delivery of new homes, either on their own or through joint vneture. Our research explores the role of local housing companies working alongside councils to deliver new homes. Council land and assets can help drive investment in the most sustainable locations, and the private rental sector can help meet local housing needs, generating long-term income streams in the process.  Councils investing in  the private rented sector can also encourage others to invest in their local areas, and bring about positive investments. This can include providing greater choice and better quality accommodation for those reliant on the private rented sector. Whilst the private rented sector will not replace the need for social rented homes, it is part of the toolkit available to local councils, allowing them to respond to urgent local housing need.

Case studies within the report have found councils being innovative, using local housing companies.

Thurrock Council established a local housing company, named Gloriana. Wholly-owned by the the council, Gloriana is delivering 1,000 new affordable homes over the next 5 years, as well as a 10% increase – using current projections – in the number of new private sector homes delivered over the next 5 years. All of these new council homes will be built to London Space Standards and Lifetime Homes, reflecting high quality design and materials.

Within the London Borough of Harrow, their Great Estates Model has established a local regeneration company with ambitions to deliver a £1.75bn investment programme into Harrow and Wealdstone town centres. Included within the regeneration plan is the delivery of 5,500 new homes, 2 new schools, around 3,000 new jobs and a district heating network to service major sites alongside a £31.3m funding pot through the Mayor of London’s Housing Zones scheme.

In Manchester, the Housing Investment Fund – a joint venture between Manchester City Council and the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, administered by Tameside Council – was established to deliver private rented sector housing, delivering on local housing need whilst also creating a return for the Local Government Pension Fund.

In Edinburgh, a council-led joint venture using the National Housing Trust initiative is helping to deliver new affordable homes using £182m of private and public funding. However, Edinburgh is not just delivering standard housing units – of 1,055 new affordable homes completing in 2014/15, around 115 homes were specifically designed with older people in mind.

In another best practice example, Aberdeen has created a new council-led joint venture with People For Places, which is set to to deliver homes for key workers on modest incomes. They plan to develop an initial 1,000 affordable homes and 1,000 private development homes, with the potential for a further 1,000 properties and an investment pot for affordable housing and private development of £300m.

We know that the solutions to the housing crisis facing the UK are complex. Yet, our findings show that without local councils in the driving seat, we cannot deliver the homes we need. A failure to local councils at the heart of housing delivery, and to address the need for new social homes to rent, will spell catastrophe for a whole generation struggling to either afford to buy so-called affordable homes, or rent from a largely unregulated private rented sector.

Now is the time for Government to place councils at the heart of delivering homes for all.

The Times | Planning chaos leaves Tory pledge to build more homes in tatters

The Times logo

15 August 2016

Planning chaos leaves Tory pledge to build more homes in tatters

Homeowners and developers are experiencing “severe” delays in decision making as the government struggles to meet its pledge to get Britain building [Peter Byrne/PA]
Homeowners and developers are experiencing “severe” delays in decision making as the government struggles to meet its pledge to “get Britain building”.

Almost a quarter of a million applications have not been processed on time since 2010, with planning departments reducing staff numbers, freedom of information requests show.

Despite repeated government pledges to liberalise planning laws, the proportion of major applications approved has fallen between 2010 and 2015.

Fewer than 120,000 new homes were built last year, well short of the 250,000 that most experts say are needed to tackle the housing crisis. Developers say that delays are curtailing their ability to meet the demand for homes.

Gavin Sherman, from Linea Homes, which specialises in regenerating derelict sites, said that his business was suffering delays even when applications were sent with the correct paperwork and were “policy compliant”.

“Local authorities are so under resourced that they simply can’t acknowledge and administer the number of applications they are receiving,” he said. “Some officers only work two days a week which makes it impossible for them to deal with the workload they are given. We are not the only developer experiencing severe delays.”

Freedom of information requests to every council in Britain found that a third of major applications, which include large housing and commercial developments, have suffered delays over the past five years, with some councils only managing to process one in three applications within the statutory three-month time limit.

Homeowners and smaller developers have also suffered delays, with more than a quarter of minor applications, which include developments of fewer than ten homes and extensions, waiting longer than two months.

Not a single council has processed every application on time, while one in 16 is failing to process half on time.

Delays to minor applications were up 16 per cent between 2010 and 2015. Over the same period councils have shed 10 per cent of their planning workforce, equivalent to 1,200 jobs. Brighton and Hove city council, which has cut its planning staff by a third, is now processing less than a third of minor applications on time compared with three quarters five years ago.

However, the link between the number of staff and the speed of applications is not straightforward. Wigan borough council, for example, has lost 48 planning staff since 2010 but has managed to improve the proportion of major applications processed on time from 55 per cent to 83 per cent.

Many councils appear to have shifted resources from minor to major applications, forcing smaller developers and homeowners to wait longer so as to speed up big commercial projects.

Rico Wojtulewicz, from the National Federation of Builders, which represents local builders, said: “Councils overlook smaller builders. They don’t push through applications of less than ten houses even though these are the developments that can been done quickly to increase the number of homes. Larger projects can take years to deliver. Local builders used to make two thirds of homes — now we only build a quarter, and delays don’t help.”

The Local Government Association denied that planning delays were the main barrier to building new homes.

A spokesman said: “Hundreds of thousands of homes given planning permission are yet to be built.

“However, we want to do more and developers and councils have repeatedly called on government to resolve the underfunding of planning. Government limited the planning fees councils can charge, which impacts on services and means council tax payers have had to subsidise planning applications by £450 million over the last three years.

“Developers are increasingly willing to pay more, and fees need to be set locally so that they cover costs”.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said that more than a quarter of a million new homes received planning permission last year.

A spokesman added: “We are getting Britain building again, with almost 900,000 homes delivered since the end of 2009. Now our plans to allow councils to introduce competition into the planning system will help speed up the process and bring a renewed focus to our efforts to build more homes. But the new local government secretary accepts we need to do more. That’s why housing will be a priority.”

Homeowners and developers face a planning lottery with some councils twice as likely to approve an application as others in 2015.

Many local authorities have also got tougher over the past five years despite pledges to make planning easier.

There is a north-south divide, with some in the south refusing more than half of applications while others in the north approve every major project.

Waverley borough council in Surrey approved the lowest proportion of major applications last year at 41 per cent, down from 80 per cent in 2010. Carlisle council approved every major application.

Councils near each other also have different approaches. Worcester council approved every major development last year but Stroud turned down a third.

There are also huge variations in the likelihood of extensions being approved.

In Amber Valley 97 per cent were given the green light but in Maldon only 59 per cent succeeded.