This website uses cookies so that we can provide you with the best possible experience. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with this. You can find out more about how we use cookies here. If you would like to know more about cookies, or how you can delete them, click here.

Better Planning: Housing affordability

Better _Planning _Logo _edit


This page is about our work on how 'Better Planning' can contribute to housing affordability. This work stream includes a policy paper setting out our analysis of the housing crisis and a number of research projects seeking to expand the evidence base in this area.


Better Planning for Housing Affordability position paper (February 2017)

This position paper sets out how in England in particular we have adopted the wrong approach to improving housing affordability, based on an incorrect diagnosis of what the problem is – and sets out a better approach.

It sets out the basis for a better approach to housing affordability, based on:

  • an acknowledgement of the multifaceted nature of the problems in housing, which successive governments' policies have often neglected;
  • a recognition of the positive role that planning can play in delivering better housing affordability; and
  • a call to rethink how we develop policy, in ways which are less theoretical and more grounded in practice, based on what actually works locally.

The paper can be downloaded using the link below.


Local Authority Direct Provision of Housing

This research project identifies the practical ways in which local authorities in England are engaging in the direct provision of housing in their areas. Phase one was completed in December 2017, and phase 2 will be published in Summer 2019.

The purpose of the research was 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, led this project, commissioned by the National Planning Forum and the RTPI. All publications are available at


Planning Permission and Development Finance

The primary aim of this research was to investigate whether it is possible to reduce uncertainty through the plan-making process through 'permission in plan'. This involves allowing local planning authorities to grant planning permission on land when drawing up local plans (thus eliminating the need for developers to apply for permission). If so, what would the implications of this be for land owners, land values, developer behaviour and profit margins, LPAs, and house prices?

This work was conducted by a joint team led by Dr Claudio de Magalhães, The Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, and Professor Christine Whitehead, London School of Economics.


The Deliverability and Affordability of Housing in the South West of England

RTPI South West commissioned research into the delivery and affordability of housing in the region. The research expands knowledge and understanding about how planning practice can deliver affordable housing, through an examination and comparison of recent large-scale housing developments.

The research includes an analysis of a range of data sources to track affordability and housing supply in the South West, in comparison with other parts of England and the country as a whole, and an investigation of six case studies of large-scale developments in the region. Heriot Watt University and Three Dragons conducted this research.


Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence

The RTPI is a partner in a new national research centre set up to inform housing policy in the UK. The Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE) was formally launched in October 2017. Our policy officer Tom Kenny is a Co-Investigator at the centre.

It brings together the expertise of nine UK universities, and representatives of the professions. The centre will be independent of government and aim to provide robust evidence to inform housing policy and practice across the UK.

The RTPI is currently engaged on a research strands exploring the value of design, and how design value is implemented through planning and procrurement.


About our Better Planning programme of work on housing affordability

The Better Planning programme will provide practical advice and intelligence to RTPI members and others, in ways which demonstrate how planning is part of the solution to major social, economic and environmental challenges.

Housing costs of all types and tenures are rising across the UK, as part of a phenomenon frequently referred to as 'the housing crisis'. The high cost of housing is not confined to house prices; whatever type of accommodation people live in they are spending a disproportionate amount of their income on it. This trend is illustrated by the consistent rise of the housing cost to income ratio over the last 20 years, and today more than three million households in the UK spend more than a third of their income on housing costs.

Celosia _social

The situation is often explained with reference to a lack of housing supply, but there is in fact a multitude of other factors involved too: a dysfunctional land market; demand stimulating policy measures; intergenerational inequity; lack of development finance; skills shortages in the construction sector; the location of development; the tax system; housing being treated as a short term issue due to political cycles; and the financialisation of housing particularly in London and the South East.

Although the issue of housing affordability is clearly complex, policy making in recent years has sought to simplify the issue by sweeping away planning regulations as a means to increasing supply and making housing more affordable. Altering planning policy may have an impact on housing costs, but it is important to bear in mind that the impact is unclear and that deregulation is just one of a range of options available to policy makers.

This work stream will consider how proactive planning can deliver housing affordability. It is important to make this argument not only because it is largely absent in the debates around housing and affordability, but also because according to the figures the current approach is failing. Alternative proposals to deregulation have been quite muted until now, and this presents an opportunity for the RTPI to offer a more progressive, solution orientated position.

This project will use a broad definition of affordability which encompasses not only house prices but also transport accessibility, local economic opportunities, and access to public services. Essentially all of the things that good planning delivers alongside housing.

If you would like to know more contact: