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Accelerating housing growth – call for evidence Matthew Warburton - 24/01/2014

research_300This week the ARCH Executive agreed to carry out a major piece of research to assess how councils are contributing to the provision of new homes in all tenures and what changes in policy and legislation might enable them to contribute more.

 

The intention is to prepare evidence for consideration by both CLG and the Lyons Housing Review launched by the Labour Party. The project will be carried out over the next five weeks.

 

ARCH's work will focus, for obvious reasons, on the particular contribution that can be made by councils which own and manage housing. It will start by updating estimates of the number of council homes that councils are planning to build, and the potential for building additional homes if current artificial restrictions on council borrowing were removed. 

 

It will also look at the potential benefits of relaxing current HRA rules to allow councils more scope to provide homes for sale or market rent within the HRA to cross-subsidise the provision of additional homes at social rents. The case for other potential HRA flexibilities will also be examined.

 

A second important theme in the project will be the potential for councils with housing to act more effectively as enablers and developers of housing for sale and market rent in their areas. We hope to show that the financial strength of council HRAs provides significant benefits to councils looking to intervene in local housing markets to assemble land for housing development, unlock stalled sites and drive development where private developers are reluctant.

 

Housing growth implies a need for new infrastructure and new services to support a growing population. ARCH's work will also look at the adequacy of current arrangements for funding infrastructure and reform of local government finance to ensure that the resources available to councils from government grants and local taxes keep pace with household growth.

 

Finally, ARCH's study will consider the operation of local land markets, how to incentivise development as opposed to land hoarding, and how to ensure that local communities get a fair share of the increase in land values when permission is granted for housing use.

 

This project will be my major priority for the next five weeks, but I need help from ARCH members to make it a success. I need evidence from real examples from ARCH member authorities - examples of new initiatives that are proving successful in generating new homes, examples of legal obstacles that, if removed, could create additional opportunities for councils to unlock more land or ensure the provision of more homes, whether for sale or rent.

 

I would really welcome input from all ARCH members - comments on the issues and arguments, examples of local initiatives and ideas for policy or legislative reform. Comments can be posted in the members area of the ARCH website or sent to me at matthew.warburton@arch-housing.org.uk, preferably by Friday 7 February

 

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