Councils held back from building more homes

Councils and housing associations still face ‘significant constraints’ when it comes to building more homes, according to a new report.

The report, which has been jointly published by the Chartered Institute of Housing, National Federation of ALMOs and the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH), claims that despite recent policy changes, councils still face obstacles to building more homes.

It found that while the government’s planned rents policy from 2020 onwards is generally welcome, councils need more long-term income stability and would prefer a ten-year policy, as opposed to the five years the government is proposing, coupled with more local flexibility to allow for regional differences.

It also warns that the continued requirement to allow tenants to buy their homes at a significant discount, and restrictions on how councils can use the money they raise from selling these homes is a significant constraint.

The report also argues that land shortages and planning constraints, even when the council is the planning authority for its own development are holding local authorities back from building more homes, along with a shortage of skilled staff.

‘Councils and ALMOs are ready and willing to take-on long-term investment programmes, but stability is vital: there needs to be a consistent approach to rents policy and no wider policy changes that would compromise the major commitments which councils are now taking on,’ said report author, John Perry.

‘And given their very diverse approaches to building new homes, councils need more local powers and flexibility on key issues such as right to buy, access to grants and local rent levels to deliver what their local communities need.’

The chief executive of ARCH, John Bibby added: ‘Government should be applauded for the decision in the Autumn 2018 Budget to lift the HRA borrowing caps and this report clearly shows that this decision has enabled councils to begin to provide many more affordable rented homes for local people. But more can and should be done.

‘This report highlights some of the remaining constraints on local authorities and we hope very much that the new government will look carefully at this report and act quickly to remove those constraints to allow councils to build a new generation of council housing for those who need it.’

The full report is available to read here.

Photo Credit – Free-Photos (Pixabay)

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart


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