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16 ways to solve the housing crisis: one year on

06 November 2017 Author: Trudi Elliott and Tom Kenny

In 2016 our 16 Ways in 16 Days campaign set out the Institute’s recommendations for tackling the housing crisis in England.

In advance of the 2017 Budget, the Institute is revisiting these recommendations to explore what has changed and highlight the changes we still need to see. Use #RTPI16ways on Twitter and join the debate.

1. Offer ready permitted sites to SME builders

Increasing the diversity of the housebuilding market is still crucial and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are still nowhere near their pre-crash levels. The UK Government’s February 2017 Housing White Paper highlighted £1bn for SMEs through the Home Building Fund amongst a range of measures. Following the introduction of a requirement in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 for Local Authorities to maintain a small sites register, RTPI has also been guiding the Right to Build Taskforce, which aims to help custom and self-build develop.

2. Keep Housing Associations building

The Housing White Paper set out a number of measures aimed at supporting this, though a few of them amounted to little more than encouraging housing associations to do more. Perhaps more significant will be the recent announcement on a rent settlement and the reversal of plans to cap Local Housing Allowance for the social sector, which should help housing associations leverage finance for building.

3. Let Local Authorities charge the planning fees they need

The Housing White Paper proposed a 20% rise in planning fees by July 2017, with an additional 20% for authorities delivering substantial numbers of homes. The legislation for this was introduced in October and should be in place by the end of the year.

The RTPI is commencing research on the resourcing of local planning authorities in the North West and South East of England, following up on our 2015 research on Investing in Delivery.

4. Require a city region wanting a devolution deal to have a plan for housing

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority is the most advanced in using its new strategic powers to try and deal with housing (by producing a spatial framework). However this has run into political obstacles, such as the release of green belt. Across the country, more strategic planning around housing and jobs infrastructure is still needed.

5. Make Land Registry an open data organisation

The Housing White Paper announced the free release of some Land Registry data, however most of this data has yet to appear. Even bolder plans were proposed in the Conservative Manifesto, though again specific plans have yet to materialise. The RTPI continue to support this release, and greater transparency of land data in general.

6. Create a fiscal regime that encourages Build to Rent

The RTPI responded to the Build to Rent consultation in early-2017. The Government should announce its plans for Build to Rent as part of the revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in early 2018.

7. Government must provide stronger direction on suitable land for housing

The Housing White Paper emphasised the intention that Brownfield Registers should be used to indicate suitable sites. The recent consultation on Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places  also emphasises the need to be strategic about the location of housing development, however more specific action is still needed. The RTPI has assisted this process through research on the Location of Development, which explores the distribution of planning permissions.

8. Encourage innovation in climate change mitigation

In the coming year the RTPI will release a lot of material on planning and climate change mitigation. This will include guidance on planning for climate changes and on renewable energy, as well as an account of the evidence linking different settlement patterns to greenhouse gas emissions.

9. Make more of the existing housing stock

The institute continues to look at the effects of taxation, housing benefit, and the structure of the rental market, on the housing crisis. Recent developments include the new rent settlement for housing associations and the increasing support for professionalising the rental market through Build to Rent.

10. Find innovative ways of funding affordable housing

At the Conservative Party Conference Theresa May announced another £2bn for affordable housing, taking the total pot up to £9bn. It’s crucial that we find more ways of supporting a range of approaches to delivering affordable housing.

11. Invest in the next generation of those who will make housing happen

In addition to Investing in Delivery, the RTPI has plans for research on pathways into planning, and a new children’s radio show to nurture future planners. The RTPI, working with the other built environment institutes, is lobbying government to ensure there is access to skills, and six other priority issues, during and after Brexit.

12. Get the public sector building

On December 4th the RTPI and the National Planning Forum will publish research on local authority housebuilding, which will show much more activity in this area than previously thought. The role of local authority building is firmly on the agenda, with a Government Green Paper and a Labour Social Housing Review on the way.

13.   Align transport infrastructure and housing delivery more effectively

The RTPI is helping to shape the National Infrastructure Commission’s first National Infrastructure Assessment, and their recommendations for strategic planning in the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor. This work emphasises the need to align major transport infrastructure with new settlements.

14. Allow Planning Inspectors to find local plans partially sound

This could be an important way to get local plans in place quicker. The recent consultation planning of the right homes in the right places suggested that  flexibility may be allowed in some areas of plans.

15. Encourage local authorities to be proactive in land assembly

In addition to building, the Institute also encourages local authorities to be proactive in land assembly to unlock land for homes as well as wider socially and economically beneficial development. The Conservative Manifesto suggested plans to improve Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) which would help, but nothing has changed yet. More progress here may be announced in the budget.

16. Intervene in the land market and capture the benefits from transport investment

The RTPI recently highlighted our support for policies around land value capture. We need new powers for land value uplift to be captured for public benefit. The CPO reforms mentioned above could be a major step in the right direction.

You can find out more about our analysis of the housing crisis and how to address it in our paper on Better Planning for Housing Affordability.

Trudi Elliott and Tom Kenny

Trudi Elliott and Tom Kenny

Trudi Elliott is Chief Executive of the RTPI. Tom Kenny leads on housing affordability at RTPI. You can find him on twitter @tomekenny.