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Housing the nation Matthew Warburton - 08/06/2012

yellow_diggers300The Local Government Association has this week launched a 'Housing the Nation' campaign, calling for government to free councils to tackle the housing crisis.


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 developments.


  • 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 public borrowing.


  • 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 homes.

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 support.


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