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NIC should include housing in its assessment of infrastructure – report

Words: Laura Edgar
Housing / Shutterstock_84968503

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said housing should be included in the National Infrastructure Commission’s forthcoming National Infrastructure Assessment.

The recommendation has been made in the CBI’s report on housing, No Place Like Home.

It follows the NIC being made permanent and the launch of a call for evidence in October, the results of which will inform the National Infrastructure Assessment.

The report states that the housing crisis is not just a social problem, but a critical business issue too. Too many firms are reporting that a lack of affordable homes is “undermining their ability to recruit and retain staff”.

Josh Hardie, deputy director-general, CBI said the UK’s housing shortage is a “tough nut to crack” and for British businesses, “it’s a problem the impacts of which are seen every day, from high prices barring people moving home and deterring them from applying or staying in a job, to the dent it puts in productivity”.

"Carrying on with business as usual is not an option" - report

No Place Like Home notes that with the government’s ambition to deliver one million homes over this Parliament, it is “clear” addressing the housing crisis is high on the political agenda. However, “it remains unclear how the government’s goal will be met”.

Therefore, the report states that a “step-change” is needed in both “mind-set and delivery". To do this, a “credible plan” that is “strategic, integrated and joined-up” is required.

Additionally, “carrying on with business as usual is not an option”. Delivering the homes required needs a new way of thinking, both in terms of the type delivered and how they are delivered.

A national housing plan must seek to address barriers that have been holding back the delivery of homes, which the report cites as including the availability of plots, the planning system and a lack of skilled people within the industry.

Hardie said: “A quiet revolution in the way business and the government think about, provide and deliver housing is necessary if we are to reach the welcome target of one million new homes by 2020.

“The “one size fits all” approach has passed its sell-by date. As the demographic landscape changes, we must have homes in the right places that fit the needs of people who live in them, creating vibrant and attractive communities. Equally, we must see different types of players in the market, like small house builders, more innovation and new partnerships between business to boost our supply base.”

Hardie said a flexible approach that is underpinned by government will enable the delivery of homes needed, and it will “drive productivity, boost growth and increase prosperity in every corner of the country”.

Joe Kilroy, policy officer at RTPI told The Planner the institute agrees with the CBI's argument that a holistic approach to housing delivery is needed, and treating housing as infrastructure, facilitating SME house builders, and improving the attractiveness of the private rented sector are all ideas worth exploring in this context.

“The housing sector is dynamic and at times volatile. It is institutionally fragmented, and interdependent with other major systems such as employment and transport. We look forward to the white paper addressing the complex links between different areas of public policy, which all impact on us getting the homes we need, in places we need to live in and at prices we can afford.”

Kilroy referred to a report the RTPI published in August this year - Delivering the value of planning. Based on research detailed in the report, the RTPI does not believe that further reform of the planning system is the way to build more homes.

“We have had 35 years of planning reform with the net result that we are in the midst of a housing crisis, so we would question the logic in yet more reform. The CBI correctly acknowledges that ‘one size fits all’ housing policy is inappropriate, and that a regionally flexible approach is more suitable. Accordingly we would agree with any business community that proposed higher planning fees in return for clear investments in the process, such as joint working, IT, and hiring chartered planners.”

The RTPI has published 16 ways to solve the housing crisis – a document which that puts forward a range of solutions across different areas of public policy aimed at addressing the housing crisis.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • The now permanent National Infrastructure Commission should include housing as a strand within its forthcoming National Infrastructure Assessment.

  • The Department for Communities and Local Government’s forthcoming white paper should be strategic and evidence-based, integrated and joined-up across government.

  • The government should recognise the importance of the private rented sector and work with businesses to find the best mechanism to improve attractiveness and reduce risk in large-scale build to rent developments.

  • Government must roll out and promote its Home Building Fund, as well as use the British Business Bank to help SME house builders in accessing finance. It should also explore a proposition for SME house builders in relation to small site public sector land release.

 • The government must ensure better collaboration and partnerships at a local level to drive further efficiencies in the planning system, and look to make full use of the powers in the Housing and Planning Act to explore the benefits of introducing competition into the system through pilot schemes.

  • The government and industry must work together to address skills shortages and knowledge gaps within the construction industry as part of the wider industrial strategy.

No Place Like Home can be found here (pdf).

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