The Local Government
Association has this week launched a 'Housing the Nation' campaign,
calling for government to free councils to tackle the housing
Key campaign demands are:
- To enable councils to ensure that new housing developments come
with the necessary supporting infrastructure, such as roads,
schools and doctors' surgeries. The LGA says survey results show
that this would significantly reduce public opposition to new
- Relaxation of restrictions on council borrowing to empower them
to build more new homes and improve existing ones, including
removal of debt ceilings and treating council borrowing for housing
as 'off balance-sheet' and not subject to the usual controls on
- Measures to enable councils to make better use of existing
properties, including quicker and less bureaucratic arrangements
for tackling empty privately-owned housing in their areas.
With senior government figures reported to be looking for ways
to spark a housing boom to boost economic growth, but without any
further government spending, the LGA's demands are timely.
Councils report that public opposition is an important barrier to
new housebuilding. The LGA's suggestions could go a long way
towards softening or removing it and winning support for more new
The demands in relation to council borrowing is a reminder that
councils have a key role to play, and a challenge to the
nonsensical Treasury orthodoxy that holds that council borrowing to
build homes is on an economic par with government borrowing to meet
the gap between current spending and tax revenues.
The asset base of 2 million council homes is too important a
resource to ignore in plans for new housebuilding. And any plan to
house the nation must look to improve how existing housing is used
and give councils the powers and flexibility to tackle empty homes
quickly and effectively.
This campaign is one to which ARCH can give its wholehearted
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