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Solving the problem of housing growth Matthew Warburton - 06/01/2014

hands_house_300During the early months of this new year, ARCH has two major opportunities to show what councils can do to help secure housing growth, and what changes in national policy and legislation would help them do more.

At a meeting of CLG's Housing Sounding Board in November, ARCH, among others, was invited to say what more could be done "to promote councils' interest in housing growth, either in relationship to new proposals or building on existing reforms".

And in December, Labour launched a Housing Commission, under the leadership of Sir Michael Lyons, to "draw up a road map that will set out changes to housing and planning policies and practice that are required to deliver the new homes and communities we need". Initial submissions have been invited by 28 February.

Work has begun on responses to these two invitations, and the ARCH Seminar and Executive meetings in Birmingham on 20 January will provide opportunities for all ARCH members to help shape our submissions.

The Seminar is open to all ARCH members and will consider what changes to current policy would do most to help councils stimulate more new housebuilding, both for sale and for social or market rent. Later in the day, the ARCH Executive will reflect on the points made in the Seminar in deciding what should be included in ARCH's submissions.

The Lyons Commission has asked for answers to 5 key questions, which provide a useful framework for organising discussion of the main issues. They are:


1. The land market - how do we get much more residential land to market and what are the best mechanisms to achieve this?

2. Investment in housing and associated infrastructure - what flexibilities through the HRA and in other areas could be granted to local authorities so they can build more homes? What are the barriers to greater private investment, particularly long-term investment?

3. The role of a new generation of New Towns and Garden Cities.

4. A new Right to Grow - how can we ensure that local authorities that want to expand, but do not have the land on which to grant planning permission without cooperation from a neighbour, are able to do so?

5. Sharing the benefits of local development with local communities - how can we ensure that a larger share of the windfall gains from planning permission goes to local communities?


Clearly, ARCH will want to reiterate the arguments we have made before for the abolition of debt caps to allow councils to invest to their full capacity in the provision of new homes.

But our argument now needs to be widened to show how councils which have retained their stock can use the financial strength of the HRA to underpin intervention in wider housing markets, to unlock land for development and support partnerships for the construction of homes to meet need in all tenures.

ARCH members have the unique advantage of combining in one organisation the role of the strategic and planning authority with that of a major social landlord. We will also want to show what benefits this arrangement brings to solving the problem of housing growth.

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