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04/11/2016

RTPI launches 16 ways to tackle housing crisis

Words: Laura Edgar

The RTPI has launched a campaign, 16 Ways in 16 Days, outlining it's recommendations for tackling the housing crisis in England.

Trudi Elliott, chief executive at the RTPI, has written to Gavin Barwell, minister for planning and housing, to reaffirm the RTPI’s 16-point action plan to help the government achieve its house building targets.

“The major house builders alone cannot be expected to deliver all the homes we need. In addition, changes to the planning system over the last 30 years have failed to deliver the homes we need,” said Elliott.

“There is no “magic bullet” but a complex range of interdependencies which professional planners are best placed to navigate, with government support, to create places and homes that people want to live in, in the volumes the country needs. We have a comprehensive package of suggestions for the prime minister, secretary of state and minister to ensure a plan for homes for all.”

The recommendations aim to address the “complex” set of issues around creating more housing while maintaining and improving places. They are:

1. Offer ready permitted sites to SME builders and support them in the new industrial strategy. We need to get them building again.

2. Keep housing associations building. They helped to get the industry through previous downturns and keep us building homes; they need to be supported to do so again.

3. Let local authorities charge the planning fees they need to properly resource their planning service. Developers will pay for an efficient and responsive service. Planning departments have suffered greater cuts than other local authority functions, it has to stop and be reversed.

4. Require a city region wanting a devolution deal with government on jobs infrastructure and other funding to have a plan to deliver the supporting homes required by those jobs. Money talks.

5. Make Land Registry an open data organisation. In order to strategically plan for houses we need data on who owns the land and where.

6. Create a fiscal regime that encourages 'Build to Rent'. We are a complete outlier as a nation in failing to supply purpose-built properties to rent with longer-term security.

7. Government must provide stronger direction on suitable land for housing. RTPI will publish its policy paper on identifying appropriate land for building on 10 November.

8. Encourage innovation in climate change mitigation and energy efficiency in the industrial strategy. We need mechanisms to improve the energy efficiency of the existing housing stock, and policies, which ensure that new homes are compliant with our carbon reduction targets. This should form a core part of the industrial strategy.

9. Make more of the existing housing stock, pay attention to how the rental market and structure, and how taxation and housing benefit policy drives behaviours and the market. We must recognise the true value of planning is in the long-term creation of great places, increasing certainty for everyone, and market shaping so the market works more effectively for all.

10. Find innovative ways of funding the affordable housing elements of consented developments to keep them delivering. We must learn the lessons from the 2008 financial crisis and cannot let the challenges that major house builders will face in a downturn result in whole developments being stalled. Too much of planners', developers' and councillors’ time was wasted during the post-crash recession arguing over which element of a permitted housing scheme was cut to make it stack up financially. Almost a decade on, the housing crisis has deepened. We must not let this happen again.

11. Invest in the next generation of those who will make the housing happen. Government has backed our planner’s bursary scheme; we need to make working in the built and natural environment open and inspiring to all.

12. Get the public sector building. Local authority-commissioned home building has to be part of the solution. The Local Government Association and the Federation of Master Builders have stepped up already and said they are up for it. Cleverly used, it can create markets and support private sector provision. It’s not either/or.

13. Align transport infrastructure and housing delivery more effectively. Start by assessing infrastructure projects for the development land they unlock, not just their impact on speed and congestion. Longer term proper spatial planning is a key tool.

14. Allow planning inspectors to find local plans partially sound. Don’t let problems with one small policy area hold up a Local plan having the weight it needs in steering where homes go.

15. Encourage local authorities to be proactive in land assembly to unblock land for homes as well as wider socially and economically beneficial development.

16. Intervene in the land market and capture the benefits from transport investment. In the longer term we need to explore the operation of the land market, an issue explored by the House of Lords in their report on the economics of housing. We need to better capture some of the increase in land value particularly from public investment so we can fund affordable housing and the infrastructure good places and homes need.

The RTPI said the current system results in too much of planners' time being spent arguing the theoretical number of “housing units” a local authority area needs. Instead, for the institute, the focus must shift to delivering the homes the country needs to include different tenures and in ensuring appropriate places to build them on.

Follow #RTPI16ways on Twitter and join the debate.

Image credit | Shutterstock

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