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Housing ‘needs’ to be seen as national infrastructure

Words: Laura Edgar

Speaking at the annual RTPI Nathaniel Lichfield Lecture, Lord Bob Kerslake said there is no “magic silver bullet” to delivering the housing needed in England and every part of the housing sector will need to “play their part and raise their game”.

“What is required,” said Kerslake, “is for housing to be seen as a vital part of the national infrastructure and planned accordingly.”

He added that housing needs to be planned long term and across the political and economic cycles.

Housing supply needs to be “doubled” and it needs to be held at that level for “some time”, an “enormous” challenge that “must be understood”.

In response to this challenge, solutions should be strategic and not driven by short-term, “often disconnected initiatives”. Solutions need to “positively engage” with everyone involved in delivering housing.

Kerslake referred to the current government’s approach to housing, and welcomed the prioritisation of housing but commented that the almost exclusive focus on home ownership seemed to him to be “wrong and potentially counterproductive”.

Chancellor George Osborne said there is a “home ownership crisis” in the country; Kerslake, though, believes “we have a housing crisis, one consequence of which is the fall in home ownership”.

Going forward, Kerslake listed his proposals for solving the housing crisis, including:

  • The whole profession needs to sign up to the “mission”. Communities as well as homes need to be built, and the quality of the housing has to be right.

  • There needs to be “national recognition” of the importance of the planning function and it needs to be properly funded. Greater flexibility in planning fees should be allowed, which should be reinvested back into the service.

  • More teams are needed and they need to be integrated and multi-disciplinary, bringing together the skills needed for “great placemaking”.