The homes agenda

Councils are approving new homes but need more powers and funding to play a lead role in tackling the national housing shortage.

Having enough high-quality, affordable homes that meet people’s needs is fundamental to building and sustaining resilient communities.

However, there are a number of issues around the quality and affordability of our existing housing, and a lack of supply of new homes to meet current and future needs. There are also challenges facing local government housing policy, including under-resourced planning departments, restrictions around the Right to Buy scheme, and addressing increasing levels of homelessness. Councils are also working towards future-proofing and retrofitting homes to be adaptable, sustainable, and to decarbonise housing to achieve net zero carbon.

“The number of homes being granted planning permission by councils far outpaces the number of homes being built

Councils want to work with the Government to ensure existing and new housing meets the needs of communities. It is key that, as a nation, we build homes of all tenures so everyone has the opportunity to live in a safe and secure home they can afford.

There are many opportunities that councils are taking to support the wider development of new housing, including: working in partnership with housing associations and the private sector; using public sector land; building new homes; and bringing empty properties back into use.

One way the Government intends to address the housing shortfall is through its commitment to build one million homes over the new Parliament, with a target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. To support this, it intends to make the planning process clearer and more accessible through its upcoming Planning White Paper.

However, the LGA continues to make the case on behalf of its members that the planning system is not the barrier to house building some perceive it to be. The number of homes being granted planning permission by councils far outpaces the number being built. According to latest LGA analysis, more than a million homes have been granted planning permission in the past decade but have not been built. The number of planning permissions granted for new homes has almost doubled since 2012/13, with councils approving nine in 10 applications. Encouragingly, house completions last year were the highest in any single year in the past decade.

With the right powers and funding, councils can play a lead role in helping the Government tackle the national shortage. This includes councils stepping in where a site with planning permission lies dormant and house building has stalled, and resuming their role as major builders of affordable homes. The planning process also needs to be protected to realise our shared ambition of building beautiful homes, which include the necessary infrastructure and affordable housing.

Councils are working hard to deliver new housing, particularly in light of the lifting of the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap at the end of 2018.

Ahead of the Budget, the LGA has urged the Government to reform Right to Buy, by allowing councils to keep all sales receipts so they can replace homes sold under the scheme and giving them flexibility to set discounts locally. We also want councils to be able to set their own planning fees to ensure planning departments are properly resourced.

As the Government rolls out new housing, planning and infrastructure proposals, it will be crucial that both central and local government continue to champion and support a plan-led system that takes into account the social, environmental and economic aspirations of our communities. 

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