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Council housebuilding ‘at its highest since 1990’

Since we last blogged about the rise in council housebuilding, Advantage, experts in structural defects warrenties, has noted that new figures by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) now show council housebuilding ‘at its highest since 1990.’

According to Architects Journal, a detailed investigation by the Royal Town Planning Institute concluded that more than 13,000 homes may have been delivered by English local authorities last year – which would be the highest since 1990.

Prime minister Theresa May last year scrapped the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) borrowing cap, allowing councils to raise more cash for construction – a decision hailed at the time by housebuilders as ‘exciting’.

The RTPI received survey responses from 142 councils, with 69 per cent saying they had directly engaged in housebuilding over the past year, at an average of 55 units each.

The body identified 8,992 residences that had been delivered in the nine months to May 2019 by 83 English local authorities. Of these 42 per cent were affordable, 23 per cent social, 10 per cent intermediate, 16 per cent for market sale and 8 per cent for private rent.

On the Royal Town Planning Institute website, Iant Tant, the RTPI President, stated: “Having local authorities back as key players in the housing market is vital to tackling the housing crisis. It’s great news that they are becoming more active again, delivering a wide range of house types to meet a wide range of needs.

“But the lack of land is still a major issue. The government needs to help councils access land at the right price to develop themselves or sell to earn the income they need. Government should also consider a more direct role in increasing supply and influencing the location of housing.”

Paul Dennett, Salford City Mayor, who helped to launch the report, said:

“We welcome this exciting new research from RTPI which shows how local authorities like our own are delivering new homes to try and meet local needs. We have realised that it is not enough to wait for the market to deliver the homes we need to tackle homelessness, rough-sleeping and the UK’s broken housing market.

“We are using the opportunities we have as a city council to deliver more truly affordable housing. Now we need more powers and resources, especially given our infrastructure and post-industrial land challenges to help us develop a new range of targeted interventions.”

Professor Janet Morphet of the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, said:

“More councils than ever are engaging in the direct delivery of housing, motivated by their role in housing provision, homelessness and income generation. Increasingly councils are concerned about the quality of housing being built in their areas. We have heard across the country, from all types of local authority, that councils are no longer relying on or waiting for developments to come through the planning system to provide the housing that they need and are taking action to deliver directly.”

“Councils are also beginning to manage all their work on housing provision, whether on planning delivery, or through companies, Housing Revenue Account and Joint Ventures through single cross professional teams. Council leadership is now emerging as a critical success factor.”

Quality and homelessness are key motivators

Apart from the obvious reason to meet housing need, the research found that councils are increasingly involved in the direct provision of housing because they want to tackle homelessness and create better places through higher quality design.

The wish to speed up build development and a sense of obligation for councils to build have also gained ground, when compared with a similar survey in 2017.

71% of councils also said they are building or planning to build special needs housing particularly for older people, compared to 42% in 2017.

The Local Authority Direct Provision of Housing study has been conducted by Professor Janice Morphet and Dr Ben Clifford of the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London. This is a follow-up study to a similar one conducted in 2017.

The study does not assess the effect of the removal of the housing borrowing cap on housing delivery as the surveys were undertaken before the policy was announced in October 2018.

Related read: House building now accounts for 60% of all construction work.

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Since we last blogged about the rise in council housebuilding, the Advantage team has noted that new figures by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) now show council housebuilding ‘at its highest since 1990.’

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