Chaired an APSE / ARCH debate today at Parliament on Councils being allowed to once again build a significant level of council housing directly themselves.
It is amazing how quickly political theory changes, if you had talked about Councils being able to build council housing a year or two back you would have been laughed at and branded a Neanderthal. Now everyone recognises that it would make a good start to getting the economy moving again and provide much needed affordable housing.
With over 60 senior elected members and officers from local authorities present along with MPs, ministerial advisers and the press it was an interesting debate.
What we all agreed on was that Government would need to make some or all of the following changes if progress is to be made on this agenda.
• Secure receipts from Right to Buy sales for investment in new homes
• Enable borrowing against future rental income to take place outside of the public sector borrowing regime, within a robust fiscal framework, in line with other European countries
• Apply a broader scope, less bureaucracy and greater freedoms to current proposals for changes to revenue and capital rules
• Provide pump-priming resources from the Homes and Communities Agency
• Provide a level playing filed with other social landlords in terms of access to Social Housing Grant
• Reform the Housing Revenue Account subsidy system, which is currently under review, to enable council building to take place
• Allow historic debts - which have been repaid several times over - to be kept separate from new debts incurred to build new homes
• Enable councils to own and manage developments directly rather than having to use complex special purpose vehicles
It should be interesting to see what the Chancellor announces in the budget in a couple of weeks time.