There has been a flurry of government announcements in respect of housing and planning that, taken in the round, have started to address some of the issues that have long concerned the LGA and councils.
There is some really good stuff in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, including the first planning proposals I have seen in 10 years that look like moving us significantly forward on place-based planning in England.
In particular, and supporting a plan-led system, is that local plans will be given greater weight; and where there is an up-to-date local plan, the five-year housing supply criteria is met. There are also proposals to expedite local plans, and for a new, non-negotiable infrastructure levy which will be set locally; and further powers for councils to bring vacant properties back into use.
More recently, the Government has committed to getting rid of ‘no fault’ evictions in the private rented housing sector in England – something the LGA and councils have long campaigned for – and to improving other protections for tenants in private sector housing.
Meanwhile, its Social Housing (Regulation) Bill would see the biggest social housing providers facing regular inspections, and unlimited fines for failing social housing landlords in England.
Councils want all residents to be able to live in safe and secure, high-quality housing, whether social or private, yet more remains to be done.
Plans to extend Right to Buy to housing association tenants may help more people to own their own homes, but this cannot come at the cost of further reductions in the number of affordable social houses. Social housing supply is already insufficient to meet current demand, which is why councils want the powers to build 100,000 high-quality, climate-friendly social homes a year.
We also need further reform of Right to Buy, which has made it difficult for councils to build replacement council housing at the rate at which it is sold.
National permitted development rights – allowing conversion of offices, shops and restaurants into houses without the need to provide any affordable homes or infrastructure funding – also need to be removed, so councils can ensure the right homes are built in the right places.