Housing policy has to be broader than the sum of a ‘numbers game’

New paper strengthens case for councils building homes where the market won’t meet targets.

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Councils must be allowed to build homes to solve access and affordability when the market alone will not meet targets, a new policy paper says.

The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) cites any successful housing policy as having to be broader than the sum of a ‘numbers game’.

Launching a related policy paper ADEPT President, Neil Gibson, said: “Housing is not just bricks and mortar, the housing crisis is not just one of numbers.

“We have a generational as well as geographical division in access and affordability – people feel estranged from the economy and from politics, while the lack of a secure home or any prospect of having one is damaging the very fabric of the country.

“Local authorities must have a role to play in tackling this crisis, but equally they must have the resources.

“The financial restrictions that prevent us from investing in more council homes, including receipts from sales, must be lifted completely.

“It is difficult to see how the market can come anywhere close to building 300,000 homes a year without the involvement of the public sector.”

The paper pitches ADEPT’s perspective on what new builds should look like, with the association saying high quality design, energy and water efficiency and the inclusion of green spaces that encourage walking, cycling and biodiversity must be factored in at a strategic level.

Peter Geraghty, chair of ADEPT’s Planning, Housing and Regeneration Board, said: ”Health and housing are inextricably linked, so we want to see planning policies and decisions support physical and mental well-being. We should be delivering high quality homes in exceptional environments where people want to work and live.

“Planning and place are intertwined.

“Where there is new housing there is a consequent strain on transport and services and this must be factored in to decision-making. Government needs to recognise the interdependence of health, housing and prosperity.”

Planning departments are acknowledged as under-resourced and under strain, with the costs of dealing with planning applications running at £200m a year, according to the Local Government Association.

ADEPT reinforces the need to recognise this burden on council budgets and that frustrations with the current planning system cannot solely be laid on local authorities, when private developers, housing associations, infrastructure and utility providers and mortgage lenders, as well as communities themselves all have a role to play in delivery.

Gibson said: “ADEPT has welcomed the Housing Infrastructure Fund, the review of the National Planning Policy Framework and the government’s commitment to housebuilding – in return we would ask the government to simplify funding schemes and reduce the proportion of funding that is distributed through competitive bidding.

“The burden on local authorities is simply too high.

“Housing is a ‘gateway issue’, one that ties together infrastructure, economy, people and place – it cannot be viewed in isolation, we have an opportunity here to build for the future, providing we recognise that high quality homes need high quality places.”

Cllr Martin Tett, LGA housing spokesman, said: “This report reinforces our call for councils to be able to play a leading role in solving our national housing shortage.

“The country needs to be building approximately 300,000 homes a year of all types and tenure to address our housing shortage.

“For that to happen, all councils should be able to borrow to build, and councils should be able to keep 100% of the receipts of the homes that are sold and adapt discounts locally to ensure a steady supply of genuinely affordable homes with the necessary infrastructure are built.

“Council planning teams are doing an incredible job with extremely limited resources, approving nine out of 10 applications, with the majority processed quickly – to further speed up the delivery of new homes, the government must provide more resources for our planning departments.”

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