Another list of ways to solve the housing crisis

American humourist H. Allen Smith once mused that the human animal differs from the lesser primates in his passion for lists. The RTPI has indulged this fancy with another list of ways to solve the housing crisis.

Its chief executive Trudi Elliott has written to the UK Minister for Planning and Housing, Gavin Barwell ahead of the release of the Housing White Paper for England with a 16-point action plan to help the government achieve its house building targets.

Its policy suggestions include:

  1. Offer ready permitted sites to SME builders

Support SMEs in the new industrial strategy.  We need to get them building again.

  1. Keep Housing Associations building

Housing Associations helped to get the industry through previous downturns and keep us building homes; they need to be supported to do so again.

  1. Let Local Authorities charge the planning fees they need

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.

  1. Require a city region wanting a devolution deal to have a plan for housing

Regions wanting a devolution deal on jobs infrastructure and other funding should have a plan to deliver the supporting homes required by those jobs. Money talks.

  1. Make Land Registry an open data organisation

In order to strategically plan for houses we need data on who owns the land and where.

  1. Create a fiscal regime that encourages Built to Rent

We are a complete outlier as a nation in failing to supply purpose-built properties to rent with longer term security.

  1. Government must provide stronger direction on suitable land for housing

Look out for RTPI’s policy paper on identifying appropriate land for building on 10 November.

  1. Encourage innovation in climate change mitigation

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.

  1. 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.

  1. Find innovative ways of funding affordable housing

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.

  1. Invest in the next generation of those who will make housing happen

Government has backed the RTPI planner’s bursary scheme; we need to make working in the built and natural environment open and inspiring to all.

  1. Get the public sector building

Local authority-commissioned home building has to be part of the solution. The LGA 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Encourage local authorities to be proactive in land assembly

Unblock land for homes as well as wider socially and economically beneficial development.

  1. 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. 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.

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