Recommendation 1: Housing as a priority for Government
On taking office, Government should make a clear commitment to building new homes through:
- A clear statement of national targets for house building moving beyond 200,000 by 2020 to cover the next twenty years.
- Early publication of a Housing and Planning White Paper and Draft Bill to implement reforms, confirm a coherent strategy for housing policy and actions that will be followed over the Government.
To ensure focus on the delivery of more homes, government should:
- Establish the post of a dedicated Housing Minister attending Cabinet.
- Establish a new-cross government task force including Treasury, DCLG, BIS, DWP and DEFRA with the resources and influence to drive a coordinated approach to housing supply.
- Create an independent advisory Housing Commission to bring skills and expertise from across the housing sector to inform policy, advise government and provide independent scrutiny and challenge to government in meeting its targets.
- Establish a national Housing Observatory as a single repository for key data, forecasts and analysis on housing to assist policy making, evaluation and a consistent approach to housing market assessments.
Government in 2015 should provide confidence that in future, counter-cyclical demand side measures will be implemented when needed. Future mortgage support should be more effectively targeted at first-time buyers and consideration should be given to restricting future schemes to new-build and houses which are closer to prevailing average prices.
Recommendation 4: Re-task the Homes and Communities Agency
The HCA should be re-tasked as a national delivery agency with the core functions of:
- Sole agency for disposal of government land for housing and assets with a focus on investing land as equity through local development partnerships and a 5 year revolving delivery plan for government land for housing.
- Acting as a major partner for local authorities and New Homes Corporations bringing skills and expertise, private funding, land and guarantees to support development.
- Supporting large scale development through the ATLAS service and coordination of expansion of training and professional development across local and central government.
Recommendation 5: Consolidate and devolve funding for housing
Housing funding streams should be consolidated as part of the economic development fund and devolved to city or county region authorities working across functional economic areas as proposed by the Adonis Review. These functional economic areas must strongly reflect strategic housing market areas and allow for wider decisions on investment in infrastructure and economic development to reflect functional housing markets. Local authorities must be responsible for decisions about investment in housing based on Local Plans and Strategic Housing Market Plans where they are in place; clear contracts with government about what will be delivered as recommended by this review; and the strength of local partnerships with Housing Associations and developers.
Recommendation 6: Expand HCA role in securing private investment
The investment arm of the HCA should be expanded to act as a vehicle to aggregate opportunities for private investment at scale.
Recommendation 7: Guarantees to support housing supply
The HCA investment arm should manage the use of government guarantees (within an overall envelope set by HM Treasury) to increase supply and attract new additional investment in viable projects at the same time minimising Government’s risk exposure and their PSBR impact. This will include managing guarantees for SMEs and for investment in Garden Cities and the Affordable Housing Guarantee Programme.
Recommendation 8: Increasing land for housing through Local Plans
To increase identification and delivery of land through Local Plans:
- Guidance for Strategic Housing Market Assessments should be strengthened to stipulate core indicators and methodology to ensure consistency and robustness of all Local Plans.
- All local planning authorities should be required to submit a Local Plan to the planning inspectorate for examination within a set time frame (December 2016). If this requirement is not met, the Secretary of State will have the power to direct the Planning Inspectorate to intervene and ensure an acceptable plan is produced in cooperation with local residents and partners including the local authority. Similar sanctions will apply if a submitted plan is deemed to be wholly inadequate.
- Local authorities should be required to include a statement in their annual monitoring report about their Local Plan’s compliance with the NPPF and any issues that would trigger a review of the plan.
- Recognising that establishing deliverability of land beyond five years will be difficult, there should be a clear requirement for a 15 year pipeline of land to ensure local authorities take a long term approach to land supply.
- New and additional emphasis on the delivery of housing in the plan in the context of the stronger powers available to councils to do so. Delivery will be monitored annually by DCLG in terms of house build as well as land allocation. Where there is a persistent under delivery, the Secretary of State will have the power to direct further efforts including an increase in the buffer of identified land to increase the number of sites with potential for delivery; designation of a planning authority; or the creation of a New Homes Corporation where not previously established.
- To ensure plans are based on housing market areas, not administrative boundaries, groups of authorities covering one or more strategic housing market area should be able to prepare Strategic Housing Market Plan (SHMP) with statutory weight which must be taken into account in developing and updating Local Plans.
- To implement the “Right to Grow”, the Secretary of State should have the power to require the authorities of a particular housing market area to complete a Strategic Housing Market Plan (SHMP) where co-operation is not forthcoming and housing need is not met. The request for a direction to undertake the SHMP could be prompted by one or more of the partner authorities; the LEP; the planning inspectorate; or the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State should have the power to instruct the Planning Inspectorate, working with local people and organisations as well as cooperative councils, to complete a SHMP to an accelerated timetable if local cooperation fails.
To simplify and speed up plan making, the process, including examination, should be split into two stages. Local authorities would first work together on the strategic elements of their plans including housing numbers, strategic infrastructure, major urban extensions or new settlements. Once found sound by the Planning Inspectorate it could be accorded weight in decision making much earlier than at present. The detailed work on the detailed policies of a Local Plan could be approved after a lighter touch second stage.