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Building opportunities

Building opportunities

What role should local authorities play in meeting the housing needs of their local population?That’s the question that a government review, by housing experts Natalie Elphicke and Keith House, sort to answer in its report published early this year.As discussed in our Thought Leader article Unlocking the door, nowhere near enough houses are being built to meet demand and halt the housing crisis. The Elphicke-House reviewconcludes that local authorities have a pivotal role in providing new homes.It says: “Our key recommendation is that councils change: from being statutory providers to being Housing Delivery Enablers. Councils have a primary role in setting out a vision for the development of their areas. They can be active in creating housing opportunity. Councils can be proactive in identifying housing need, growth and opportunity. They can work closely with businesses and other partners to share ideas and experience – and actively use their own assets and knowledge to unlock housing opportunities and deliver more homes, to build strong and sustainable communities.”But how? Budgetary cuts as well as legislation such as the 2011 Localism Act have seen the roles and responsibilities of councils change. Elphicke-House presents these changes as opportunities and shows that there are plenty of councils doing inspiring and engaging work – the review lists innovative examples from almost 30 local authorities.“No one should be in any doubt as to the strength of the very best councils in shaping a vision for the communities they serve, and being dynamic, original and active in making that vision happen,” it says.But councils can’t do it on their own – partnership, says Elphicke-House, is key. “The evidence is that councils are most successful when working in partnership with others and where they promote opportunities.”Becoming ‘Housing Delivery Enablers’ is a major leap for local authorities and, despite the examples of success, there are numerous obstacles set in the way.To find out exactly what needs to be done, Mears is partnering with LGiU to take an in-depth look at the barriers and challenges faced by councils trying to build more homes to house their residents.The research which will be launched at CIH Manchester conference in June will be based on an in-depth survey of local government officers and a series of workshops to investigate the housing situation in the south-east in fine detail.The final report will draw together innovative ideas, partnerships, funding models and delivery packages in order to support local authorities taking leadership and creating a vision for their areas.As the Elphicke-House review says in its report: “Housing Delivery Enabling is about demonstrating a willingness to be open to working in a different way. Councils have a role in setting out a clear direction and promotion of opportunities.“Councils have a primary role in creating, shaping, sharing and communicating a vision for their area. Understanding and articulating housing needs across all tenures is central to the success of a council’s role.”