Latest Public Sector News

27.09.16

‘Devo for Districts’ calls to enable regional councils to deliver more homes

Regional councils are at the heart of housebuilding activity and need more powers to deliver the greater number of homes Britain needs, according to a new report.

The report, from the Housing and Finance Institute (HFI), says that around 70% of new housebuilding activity takes place in regional local council areas, not metropolitan areas.

Despite this, there is a greater need for council housing in regional areas, where nearly 80,000 more households are on the waiting list than in the capital and metropolitan areas.

Approximately 90% of areas where housing associations did not start any new homes in the last year were in regional local councils.

The report notes: “Regional local councils do not have the attention, full powers, funding and support from central government which is enjoyed by the capital and metropolitan areas. Nor have they for many, many years.”

For example, of the £606.3m allocated for Housing Zones, £600m went to London.

The HFI called for a ‘Devo for Districts’ initiative, where regional local councils receive “extra cash allocations, financial support and housing flexibilities” if they can prove that they will deliver more homes and growth.

In addition, it said regional local councils should be allowed to keep the receipts from sales of valuable houses and to be exempt from the high value assets levy, “provided there is a track record of housing delivery and a clear deliverable plan for new homes within four years”.

The latest figures from the DCLG show that Right to Buy sales have increased whereas replacement houses have declined. Shelter has warned that councils will lose £26m a year because of the policy.

The HFI said key potential housing areas should be identified and given infrastructure support, for instance in water and utilities.

It also said councils should be able to take part in its ‘Housing Business Ready’ programme to learn good business skills and improve monitoring and business resilience.

The LGA has called for a “renaissance” in council house building after warning that up to 5.4 million people will need affordable housing by 2024.

(Image c. Yui Mok from Press Association Images)

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