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Government backs call for councils to become 'housing delivery enablers'

The government has accepted a number of recommendations put forward by an independent review into the role councils can play in boosting housing supply, including seeing them become ‘housing delivery enablers’.

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However, central government has also said a proposal for a new, independent organisation to bring together local government and the finance sectors, requires ‘further exploration’.

Natalie Elphicke and Councillor Keith House were commissioned to undertake a review into the role of councils in boosting housing supply at the start of 2014.

The findings of the ‘Elphicke-House Report’ were published yesterday, arguing for local authorities ‘to be put at the heart of providing more homes across all tenures in their local area’.

It calls for councils to become ‘housing delivery enablers’. As such, they would be tasked with assessing the housing need of their area, working with businesses, housing associations and others ‘to provide the homes their residents want and need to build strong and sustainable communities’.

An initial government response said: ‘Government is fully behind the core recommendation that councils should become housing delivery enablers.

‘By being more active in creating housing opportunities, using their own assets, and working closely with partners, councils can deliver more homes and help to build strong and sustainable communities.’

New approaches to finance:

The report says:

  • Councils should explore innovative financial mechanisms to support new housing development
  • Councils should consider setting up local housing delivery organisations
  • There should be a Housing and Finance Institute to support a step change in housing activity, unlock opportunities, boost skills, and increase capacity
  • Housing development offers investment potential for local pension funds.

 

Government said it is also interested in working with the Local Government Association about the ‘enabler’ proposal, including through its peer challenge processes.

Another of the review’s key recommendations is that a new independent organisation - a Housing and Finance Institute - is established to bring together local government and the finance sectors ‘to unlock opportunities’.

The government response added: ‘The government recognises the benefits of sharing information between councils and between sectors, especially where this leads to increased private investment in housing and more housing development.The importance of this coming together of different sectors is made well by the reviewers.

‘The government accepts in principle the importance of greater support to unlock financing opportunities.

‘The government will explore with the local government sector how the intention behind this recommendation might be delivered in a way that secures value for money without creating unnecessary bureaucracy.’

In particular, the report urges councils to consider how they can actively support smaller and start-up housing businesses locally – whether with land, finance or training.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: ‘Local authorities already play a key role in meeting housing needs in their areas across England. However, as this review demonstrates, there is clearly scope for them to go further to help solve the country’s current housing crisis. I warmly welcome this review and look forward to its core recommendations being taken forward.’

Housing minister Brandon Lewis said he wants to see local authorities ‘seizing this new opportunity to support local residents and businesses to build more in their area’.

Kathleen Kelly, assistant director of policy and research at the National Housing Federation said: ‘There is a severe shortage of housing in this country that needs to be urgently addressed and it is clear that no one part of the housing sector can solve this alone.

‘We welcome recommendations in the Elphicke-House review designed to boost local authorities’ contributions to developing desperately needed homes.

‘We particularly welcome the proposed role of local authorities in bringing unused public land back into use and the opportunity for housing associations to build on their strong history of working with them to scale up and speed up housebuilding in their neighbourhoods.’

The report says ‘Housing Delivery Enablers’ can support the creation of more homes:

  • by providing strategic clarity, transparency and consistency around housing need, around growth and around opportunity in their area;
  • through community leadership: galvanising and securing local support for housing and business activity; making the case for housing and growth; responding to and creatively addressing community concerns and needs; supporting local neighbourhoods and villages to shape their communities;  community organisation skills, construction skills and support for small builders;
  • through business leadership:  bringing together a wide range of partners to meet the needs of residents across all tenures; improving knowledge and understanding opportunities of how business can work with councils and for councils to understand opportunities available to them and to their communities;  through identifying land to meet housing need, including their own land and that of other public bodies;
  • through the provision of planning consent and by being realistic, transparent and accountable for planning agreements reached with developers;
  • by providing resources to support housing: development finance, long term investment, sales guarantees;
  • by driving efficiencies and optimising assets: particularly where councils retain council housing stock;
  • by working with partners to drive housing delivery actively, for example through local housing organisations.

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