Councils should have greater power to build more homes, shows report

Councils can play a greater role in getting the country building, an independent review finds.

In their report to the government, Natalie Elphicke and Councillor Keith House argue for councils to be put at the heart of providing more homes across all tenures in their local area.

Under their proposals, councils would become “housing delivery enablers” – assessing the housing need of their area, working with businesses, housing associations and others to provide the homes their residents want and need to build strong and sustainable communities.

In particular, the report urges councils to consider how they can actively support smaller and start-up housing businesses locally – whether with land, finance or training.

Elphicke and Councillor House also urge the government to take steps to support councils as they take on this new role.

Natalie Elphicke said: “All hands are needed on deck. Unlocking councils will help to deliver the homes we need and get more young people onto the housing ladder.

“We have talked for a decade. There have been many great reforms. Now it’s time for councils to foster a homebuilding revolution.

“Councils hold the key to shake up the status quo and to get Britain building.”

Councillor Keith House said: “We have seen some inspiring examples of councils driving housing for their areas, particularly where they have set up housing companies to drive forward housebuilding. With skills and confidence, more councils can help to deliver that step-change in housing supply.

“Councils will be central to a successful step-change in housebuilding. It’s now time for action not words. Our report sets out how that can happen.”

Since 2010 the government has taken a range of measures to get the country building again including:
• radically reforming the planning system, putting power back in the hands of local communities to have a say over what is built in their area
• Investing billions in an Affordable Homes Programme – nearly 217,000 new homes have been delivered since 2010
• introducing schemes like Help to Buy, which enable people to buy with a fraction of the deposit they would normally require with housebuilders delivering more as a direct result
• investing billions to get workers back on sites that were stalled in the 2008 economic crash

Today, the government is immediately accepting a number of Natalie Elphicke and Councillor House’s key recommendations.

Additional advice will be offered on supporting communities that want to bring forward a neighbourhood plan.
And the government will monitor schemes to support smaller builders – on top of the £525 million Builders Finance Fund already available to get work started on stalled smaller sites.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “Local authorities already play a key role in meeting housing needs in their areas across England. However, as this review demonstrates, there is clearly scope for them to go further to help solve the country’s current housing crisis. I warmly welcome this review and look forward to its core recommendations being taken forward.

“Housing providers have full government support: I have prioritised the investment of almost £2 billion to ensure we can deliver on average 55,000 new affordable homes a year until 2020. We are also taking the lead in exploring ways to boost housing supply: as I announced last month, we will be directly commissioning, building and selling homes to speed up the process at Northstowe in Cambridge.

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: “Council housing starts are at a 23-year high and planning permission was granted on 240,000 new homes in the year to September – but today’s report makes clear how councils could do more to deliver homes for their communities.

"I now want to see local authorities seizing this new opportunity to support local residents and businesses to build more in their area."

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