Latest Public Sector News

08.08.16

Council pension funds must be used to pay for local housing development, RIBA says

Councils should create ‘local housing development funds’ – initially using money from local authority pension funds and then attracting secondary institutional investment – in order to help tackle the housing crisis, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has said in a report setting out 19 other recommendations.

Amongst these are calls for local authorities to consider partnering arrangements where land and ownership is retained by the council, potentially in the form of Community Land Trusts, as well as to address the principles of inclusive design in internal and external environments.

It also called on local and central government to set up public sector ‘investment vehicles’ and a national housing investment bank to issue bonds and ISAs, attract long-term investment, and recycle Right to Buy receipts.

In the report, the institute said the Brexit result in the EU Referendum and Theresa May’s new government both make it “more vital than ever” to ensure the country sets out to deal with its “dire housing crisis”.

Its policies advocate for better use of public sector land and public resources; more locally-made decisions around housing; a bigger focus on quality design; increased support for new types of housing development; sustainable and more resilient homes; and a “more transparent” housing market.

RIBA recommended that central government lift the cap on Housing Revenue Account receipts so that councils can borrow to build social housing, and suggested that the National Infrastructure Commission, a relatively new body set up last year, should add housing policy to its expansive remit.

Jane Duncan, RIBA’s president, argued that the 20 actions laid out in the document are “achievable and realistic steps the government can take now” to tackle the crisis.

“Everyone has the right to live in a well-designed, sustainable, affordable home – we must work together to realise new solutions to make this a reality for the majority, not just the wealthy few,” she said.

“Without better spending, the homes we build now will not be built to last and are simply storing up further challenges for the future.”   

Other suggestions include empowering local leaders to shape their local housing markets by taking control over requirements for affordable housing, including the tenure composition for new developments – echoing some of the remarks from council CEOs made earlier this year.

The report also said local and neighbourhood plans should include design review to drive quality design in new developments; that the removal of stamp duty when moving to a smaller home should be trialled in the upcoming Autumn Statement; that research into viability, build quality and overheating should be commissioned; and that quality of life and housing affordability should be subject to regular review.

Arguing that there is a “huge shortage” of genuinely affordable new homes to buy or rent, Alex Ely, from RIBA’s Housing Group, added: “Housing policy alone won’t be enough to solve a housing crisis with roots that are as complex as they are varied.

“The only solution lies in bringing together the public and private sector to promote, enable and finance new homes, and improve the quality of the homes we already have and are already building.”

Comments

Jones   08/08/2016 at 21:36

The purpose of pension funds is to provide pensions, not be siphoned off for other purposes, no matter how well intentioned. I thought it was only in the private sector that pension funds could be siphoned off this way .

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