Posted by: Adam Roake | May 21, 2010

HOUSING AND THE COALITION

The Coalition Agreement has almost nothing to say about Housing.  ‘Housing’ appears five times in total in the document.  Of those five, one is in relation to including housing costs in the CPI measure of inflation, one is a reference to Housing Revenue Account and one is in relation to increasing the energy efficiency of housing.  The only two proper policy references are firstly to “…return decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils”(p.11), instead of the soon to be abolished Regional Spatial Strategies and secondly to “…promote ‘Home on the Farm’ schemes(p.12) to encourage farmers (not RSLs or Councils or housebuilders!) to deliver affordable housing.

The only ray of hope might be the promise to “… radically reform the planning system to give neighbourhoods far more ability to determine the shape of the places in which their inhabitants live”.  But will local councillors really want to propose the levels of new housing we need at the risk of losing the votes of local people who simply don’t want new housing development near them?  It is clearly essential that significantly more new housing is built, particularly in the south of the country, but I have yet to meet a local resident, who has welcomed a housing scheme I have been promoting.  How will local politicians, who often are elected on majorities of less than a hundred, set targets which will inevitably antagonise large sections of their constituents?  The Conservatives “Open Source Planning” Green Paper is apparently to be the model for the radical reform of the planning system.  According to this, Local Authorities will have to show an Inspector that they have, “…conducted a professional assessment of the housing need for their locality” and if they do not convince him, the Secretary of State can reject the Local Plan.  But the Secretary of State will have no authority to dictate how or where the need will be met; “… such issues of judgement will remain entirely for local determination”.  It seems likely that in reality housing targets will continue to be a thorny issue at local level.

In London, the largest housing market in the UK, the situation is as complicated but in different ways. The new London Housing Strategy sets the boroughs some tough targets for affordable housing and the draft Replacement London Plan does the same for housing overall.  One assumes the GLA will not be abolished, despite it doing a similar job to a regional authority, but a number of local boroughs are already jibbing at the housing targets Boris has set them, claiming they are too high.  Which locally elected body will prevail here?

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Responses

  1. Interesting questions you raise here Adam. By all accounts, those who lobbied the Government pre-election on this issue were given a clear message that the policy would be taken through irrespective of concerns from professionals and developers.

  2. Thanks for your comment James. It does seem a bit like they don’t really want any new housing particularly if it’s “garden grabbing” or in the Green Belt. Whilst not listening to “professionals” might have a certain appeal, ignoring the demographic realities, which show real demand now and into the future, seems a bit short sighted.


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