With the General Election debate starting to heat up, it’s pleasing to see that the housing crisis is featuring quite prominently in the major political party’s manifestos and more importantly local government’s role as part of the solution.
Whilst it’s not quite the 1951 election where the parties were competing on who could build the most homes during the course of the next parliament, with Harold McMillan’s Prime Ministerial credentials established on the back of delivering on housing pledges made, there is significant recognition by all that the number of homes built needs to increase dramatically in the coming years. The question is how can this be delivered by the next Government?
It is timely that we are launching our third major research project, with the Town and County Planning Association, ‘Building homes, creating communities’. Our report shows that 98% of councils surveyed across the UK described their need for affordable housing as either ‘severe’ or ‘moderate’. A lack of investment in genuinely affordable housing exacerbated by Government intervention on rent setting policy, proposed expansion to the right to buy in England and deregulation of planning have all reduced the ability of local authorities to secure the homes the nation requires.
The report also calls for a recognition that the root cause of the housing crisis is a lack of supply of new build, the mix of properties that are being built and in particular the lack of affordable homes. We also continue to call for an enhanced role for local authorities in delivering homes for rent on a significant scale to meet the requirements of those most in need.
Our previous research with TCPA highlighted the need to be building in excess of 250,000 homes a year just to keep up with demand. With the private sectors best effort in UK history 150,000 units and housing associations contributing around 25,000 more there is a fairly obvious solution to making up the shortfall.
Over two thirds, 69% of councils surveyed, in our current research, have already started to tackle this gap innovatively by establishing housing companies, in partnership, or on their own. A new wave of council homes would help support local economic growth, jobs and skills development in our economy.
Some sensible housing policy changes from the next Government around financial freedoms and flexibilities would allow local authorities to do what they do best, act on behalf of their communities and deliver solutions to often complex public policy issues.