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ARCH annual report


The ARCH annual report for 2015-16 is now available to view.


Download it here.

CLG Review of local authorities’ role in housing supply – the next stage 04/08/2014

300_FlatsLast week Natalie Elphicke and Keith House issued an update on the progress of their CLG-sponsored review of local authorities' role in housing supply. Its list of emerging themes and challenges provides a useful focus for the supplementary submission ARCH will be making to the review drawing on the seminar for councils and ALMOs in the East Midlands held on the 9 July.

The headlines from the update are that there is widespread agreement that the supply of housing activity should be increased across all housing tenures and that local authorities can be central to housing delivery.

There is a pressing need, say the review team, for a step change in the role that local authorities can play in supporting housing activity and housing supply.

There are clear signs, they say, that this step change can be delivered through collaboration between public and private sector partners and market-supported solutions.

Emerging themes in the review include a growing recognition that housing is a local priority not just in relation to meeting the housing shortage, but in relation to employment, education and other strategic priorities.

There is a growing self-confidence among local authorities in the role that they can play, and self-financing is universally acknowledged as a major opportunity.

What next?


The next stages of the review will focus on a number of challenges for local authorities and their partners in delivering the necessary step change.

Some of these relate to effective communication between local authorities and others involved - for example, about the processes for assessing, planning and monitoring local housing markets and local housing need and linking them to the local authority's strategic vision for the area, or about the availability of local land for development.

Others are the familiar challenges of unblocking stalled sites and ensuring that when planning permission is granted, building soon starts. There are skills and capacity issues to be addressed both in councils and in the local building industry in many areas.

Another challenge is the slow speed at which vacant land owned by government agencies and other public bodies, including county councils in shire areas, is made available for development.

This was a point raised at the ARCH seminar. Alongside issues of scale facing smaller district councils there is perhaps a case for ARCH to look specifically at the challenge of working in two-tier areas.

Some respondents to the review have argued that local authority priorities appear to focus on the development of larger sites, and the review team want to look at ways to encourage the release of non-strategic local authority land, such as garages, for development.

Discussion at the ARCH seminar seemed to suggest the opposite, with councils preferring to prioritise smaller or more difficult sites for building within the HRA, leaving larger sites for development privately or through a joint venture. This would appear to make more sense than a policy of releasing garage and infill sites on existing council estates except where the objective is explicitly to introduce diversity of tenure and ownership.

What will ARCH be doing?

One issue ARCH will be looking to pursue in detail with the review team is how to simplify access to private finance.

A clear message from the ARCH seminar is development through local housing delivery vehicles demands substantial set-up and administrative costs which may be feasible for large urban authorities but are much more challenging for smaller districts.

Ways to overcome this challenge could include collaboration among councils, such as the creation of a vehicle capable of developing in several areas, or, as the review team suggest, development of standardized models and documentation.


But the ARCH submission will also argue that it would be wrong for the review to put all its eggs in the private finance basket. Local authorities are beginning to use three broad approaches to new housing development: building in the HRA, building outside the HRA through a local authority company, whether an ALMO or one established for the purpose, and in public/private partnerships through local housing delivery vehicles.

All three approaches have a role to play and the emphasis should be on what works best in each local situation, not a one-size-fits-all emphasis on any one approach.

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