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Local Authority Direct Provision of Housing

This project will identify the practical ways in which local authorities in England are engaging in the direct provision of housing in their areas.

The purpose of the research is to identify ways that more housing is being provided by the public sector at a time of significant pressures on local authority budgets, using a variety of innovative methods that have been developed by local authorities seeking to maximise their resources while meeting social and economic need.

Professor Janice Morphet and Dr Ben Clifford at The Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, are leading this project, commissioned by the National Planning Forum and the RTPI.

About the project

The specific objectives of the project are to:

  • promote greater understanding of existing and emerging local authority practices in providing housing, including policy objectives, funding methods etc;
  • assist local authorities in providing more housing through a range of examples in practice, so supporting an increase in housing supply;
  • where possible, assess the number and proportion of dwellings being provided through these methods;
  • consider the relative role of planning in these initiatives, including by the extent to which planners are aware of and engaged in these practices, how these local authority methods of providing housing can be incorporated into planning evidence and supply side calculations, and if there is innovative planning practice that could be shared more widely;
  • provide government including HM Treasury, local authorities and other relevant bodies with evidence to undertake effective policy-making;
  • enable the planning profession to understand the mechanisms available to translate planning permissions into delivery of housing.

The interim findings (July 2017) are now available to view here.

You can also read a blog about the project on the LSE British Politics and Policy site:

Is austerity the mother of invention? How local authorities are providing housing again

And a blog on the RTPI website:

How local authorities are helping to fix our broken housing market

Regional events

As part of the project, sessions are being held at RTPI regional events to discuss the research and identify possible case studies of local authority provision, including:

East Midlands: 15th March 2017, Grantham

East of England:

30th March 2017, Bury St Edmunds

15th June 2017, Letchworth

Yorkshire: 8th May 2017, Leeds

North East: 15th May 2017, Durham

West Midlands: 13th June 2017, Lichfield

North West: To be scheduled

South East: 10th November, Brighton University

Sessions are also being held at:

National Planning Forum meeting: 4th April 2017, London

RTPI Planning Convention: 21st June 2017, London

National Planning Forum meeting: 4th December 2017, London

Survey for local authorities on local authority housebuilding

Janice and Ben have constructed a survey questionnaire derived from the information collected at the regional events [more info here]. They are trying to get a response from every local authority in England on their housing activities. If you work for a local authority and can spare 10 minutes to help contribute to this national picture of local authority housing provision then please complete the survey at:

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/39PQ32H

Background to the project

Successive governments have placed much of the blame for the failure to provide an adequate supply of housing in England on local authorities operating the planning system. Uncertainties in making local plans, failures to identify housing sites and the length of time spent in negotiation over affordable housing and other contributions have all been cited as factors that have delayed housing delivery.

However, the Barker Review also identified the need for central government investment in social and affordable housing, alongside a freeing-up of the land market, but this recommendation was never addressed. Instead, local authorities were encouraged to release the capital embodied in their housing through stock transfer. Even where housing was not sold, local authorities were forced to reduce their housing stocks through successive 'Right to Buy' policies.

Local authorities are now consenting more housing, and more public land is being released for development. However, the number of completed dwellings is still failing to rise significantly.

As increasingly recognised across the main political parties and commentators, one major reason for the 'housing crisis' is that local authorities ceased their role of direct housing providers in the 1980s. Since then, the shortfall in housing provision has mirrored the scale of the former local authority contribution to the market.

Given this context, this project will identify and disseminate the practical ways in which local authorities in England are engaging in the direct provision of housing in their areas.

The research team can be contacted at: j.morphet@ucl.ac.uk