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House building focus should be in towns and villages – report

Words: Laura Edgar
Village / iStock_19263065

Regional towns and councils should get a fairer deal regarding the allocation of housing funds.

In its new report From shores to the shires, the Housing and Finance Institute also said councils should keep money from valuable houses they sell, be exempt from the high value assets levy and given extra financial support if they can show they will deliver more homes.

According to the report, around 70 per cent of all new homes completed last year were built in regional local council areas, as were 70 per cent of all new homes started.

Housing need does not only exist in London and other metropolitan areas, with the report stating that there are nearly 800,000 more households on the waiting lists in the regional local council areas. Nearly 90 per cent of areas where housing associations did not start building any new homes were in these areas.

The report also notes that 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.”

The institute said London secured “almost 100 times as much funding” for housing zones than the rest of England, but will “deliver only twice the number”, something that demonstrates “skewed funding”. The capital has secured £600 million of housing zones allocations and plans to build 75,000 homes with it, while the rest of England received £6.3 million and aims to build 34,000 new homes.

Natalie Elphicke, chief executive, the Housing and Finance Industry, said there is an ambition to build and shape housing choice across the country, including coastal communities, country villages and historic cities and counties of England.

“Too often,” she said, “it has been the noisy major metropolitan cities or the massive housing associations already awash with cash who ask for even more.”

“Yet the beating heart of sustainable housing delivery is in the counties, ordinary towns and districts of England. It's time to harness the energy across the country in building homes and regenerating communities. The government needs to put more of its housing money where the opportunity to deliver is and that means right across the country.”

In the report, the Housing and Finance Institute lay out five recommendations aimed at re-balancing national housing policy:

  1. Allow regional local councils to keep the money from any valuable houses they sell if there is a track record of housing delivery or clear deliverable plans for new homes within four years.

  2. All regional local councils should be exempt from the high value assets levy, again, as long as there is a track record of housing delivery or plans to deliver new homes within four years.

  3. Give extra funding allocations and financial support for regional local councils if they can show they can and will deliver more homes and growth. Devolution for districts should be allowed for councils with a track record who could benefit from some of the freedoms and flexibilities which have been given to urban centres.

  4. Key areas of housing opportunity in regional local councils that can be translated into more homes, faster, should be pin-pointed. Additional support for infrastructure funding to realise these homes sooner, including for new water supply and other utility funding, should be provided.

  5. Fund capacity building with the institute’s flagship Housing Business Ready programme to help councils in the practical work needed to implement good business skills, improve monitoring and business resilience and drive through housing delivery.

From shores to the shires can be found here (pdf).

Image credit | iStock