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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org,
preferably by Friday 7 February.
Matthew on Twitter