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It's time to re-engage

Although the recession has had a recent impact on housing supply, the 25 year slump in housing provision comes from the public sector withdrawal from the market - so it is critical that they are helped to re-engage.

That is why a new report, which focuses on dramatically increasing the delivery of all housing tenures by councils, is a very welcome step in the right direction, cutting through a lot of historical rhetoric to make some valid and insightful recommendations.

The report highlights that local authorities don’t see planning as the key concern, and I think developers would agree. 

It is about having the land and the finance or financial freedom to build housing. 

It makes sensible comment about greater flexibilities in the HRA, and also increasing the number of units built outside the HRA, increasing from 50 to 200. 

But it’s also about having the expertise too.

The key opportunity for developers comes from the recognition that the private sector has a valid role to play in sharing its expertise, to help local authorities re-engage with housing delivery. 

The report encourages greater private sector partnership through an annual development panel and a Housing and Finance Institute, which is a sensible suggestion, as accessing and leveraging finance is key. 

“A key opportunity for developers comes from the recognition that the private sector has a valid role to play in sharing its expertise”

It also points to the valid role of housing companies outside of the HRA, which is helpful given that it doesn’t make a direct reference to the removal of the cap, which many would value seeing considered.

Experienced housing developers are well placed to use their commercial knowledge of the market to help authorities make the most of their land or assets. 

For example they have real insight that can help with the design of private market housing on mixed tenure developments, to maximise sales and speed up the sales process. 

And the right kind of partner can also help on more flexible approaches to what market types of housing should be built on which areas of land, again using market knowledge and a cross subsidy approach to make the most of all assets.

And as an experienced developer I’d also like to table an additional recommendation. 

In many urban areas local authorities hold land that suffers from high degrees of contamination, which makes it commercially unviable with the heavy up front cost of decontamination. 

A government fund or subsidy could help these authorities unlock these land assets, and the government could recoup some of the forward funding once the site had been successfully developed for housing. 

This would bring forward some valuable sites for development in some key urban locations, which developers alone would struggle to make commercially viable.

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