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A renewed role for councils in housing delivery

A generation has passed since we saw councils build tens of thousands of homes a year.

However, the recently published independent review into the role of local authorities in housing supply proposes a renewed role for councils in helping to solve the housing crisis.

The report’s core recommendation is that councils are given primary responsibility to assess and meet the housing needs of their local population as ‘Housing Delivery Enablers’.

Enable is the key word throughout this latest contribution to the housing debate.

Councils are judged by the reviewers to be “at their most successful when working in partnership”.

For Housing Associations this is recognition of their long and successful tradition of partnership working with local councils and proven track record of delivery.

A shortage in deliverable land and sites is a key constraint to housing delivery.

“A shortage in deliverable land and sites is a key constraint to housing delivery”

As such the report rightly identifies that surplus public sector land has the potential to make a real difference to the viability of housing development coming forward and the speed at which it can be built out.

Making it easier for house builders to identify possible sites will certainly help.

Proposed powers for councils to dispose of large public sector sites holds particular promise and responds to National Housing Federation calls for a more strategic approach to the disposal and use of public sector assets.

The review also considers how best to support councils, working often in partnership with Housing Associations, to identify new and effective ways to finance new housing development.

In the context of significant cuts to local government and to housing grant, accessing and attracting investment to a local area is crucial.

The review is right to encourage local authority pension funds to actively consider the opportunities to invest in housing and infrastructure in their local area via a new ‘Pension Fund Challenge’.

The key question must now be how we translate the proposals in this review into more and better homes.

That is why, as part of the Homes for Britain campaign the National Housing Federation has pressed for politicians to be bold to put in place a long term plan covering all parts of the housing market to end the housing crisis once and for all.

Clarissa Corbisiero is head of policy at the National Housing Federation

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