Only six in ten felt they were deliverable in current framework

New research out today from the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) and Mears has found that considerable investment and a shift in mindset in the housing sector is needed for councils to fulfil their role as the Government’s “housing delivery enablers.”

‘Under Construction: Are councils ready to get the nation building?’ found that availability of land, the difficulty of funding new housing and a shortage of skills in local government were seen as barriers to new development.

Our survey found that while nine out of ten respondents said that their authority had a plan for the number of houses that they intended to build, only six in ten said that they felt they were deliverable in the specified time frame. 

While the Government aims to deliver 275,000 affordable homes by 2020, our research suggests that councils will struggle to cope with this pressure.  While there are pockets of innovation and impressive examples of councils showing leadership, confidence and vision to deliver this target, it is not widespread across the sector.

Areas like Birmingham and Cambridge are showcased in the report but many local authorities are still behind the curve and lack the expertise and skills to perform their role in promoting new housing. Less than a third had been involved in a Joint Venture with a private sector partner, and less than a quarter had set up a Special Purpose Vehicle.

The report outlines a vision for the development of areas that identifies housing need by working closely with businesses and partners to share ideas and experience and actively use their assets and knowledge to unlock housing opportunity.

LGiU and Mears are calling on local and central government to place house building at the heart of proposals for devolution with a view towards pooling expertise and resources across regions.

Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive, LGiU, said:

“Many councils across the country have continued to punch above their weight when it comes to innovative and proactive approaches to house building. However, added financial pressure and increased need has meant that this isn’t the case for all.

Moving forward, local and central government need to place housing building at the heart of their devolution proposals to ensure communities get the best possible expertise and resource for their regions.

We must move beyond fraught negotiations with developers over social housing provision, to taking a more proactive and confident place in the local housing market.”

Roy Irwin, Strategic Policy Advisor Mears said: 

“Despite resources being seriously constrained, severely in some cases, there is an eagerness in many local authorities to make a real impact.

Government needs to ensure that national policy and resources complement and support the local achievement of a step change in output. There has been some progress on this front but more needs to be done. At this point in time the greater devolution of power and responsibilities on housing matters to local government has serious positive potential.”

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