LGA: White paper could have offered council housebuilding ‘renaissance’

12 May 17

The proposals to tackle the affordability crisis in the government’s housing white paper do not go far enough, the Local Government Association has said.  

The comments were made in response to a consultation on the government’s housing white paper, which concluded last week.

The LGA stated it would have liked to have seen proposals “go much further in pursuing policies that enable the renaissance in genuinely affordable housing delivery by councils”, in its response released last week.

“In order to succeed, local government must be enabled to deliver and help deliver additional housing that is genuinely affordable, reduces homelessness, and achieves wider outcomes for their local economies and communities,” the umbrella body response stated.

The LGA believes councils should be freed up to allow them to borrow more money so they can build more homes.

Local government and Whitehall should work together to “establish a stable long-term financial framework enabling councils to invest, such as removing Housing Revenue Account (HRA) borrowing from contributing to public debt”, an LGA Housing Commission report, out in December last year, stated.

The LGA set up its Housing Commission – with more than 100 partners, including councils, developers and charities – to help councils “deliver their ambition for places”.

The Communities and Local Government committee also mooted the idea of councils being able to borrow more to build more in April, when it urged a review of the Housing Revenue Account borrowing caps.

The white paper seems to rely on tightening accountability on local planning authorities and changing the planning system, the LGA said in its response to the white paper. 

These measures are viewed as insufficient without accompanying tools and powers for councils that can genuinely affect change, the membership body concluded. 

Economist Joe Sarling believed the housing white paper was a “safe port in a political storm”.

Writing a blog for PF he said: “An important proposal in the white paper is the housing delivery test, which introduces incentives for local authorities to maintain a supply of new housing.”

The LGA acknowledged the housing paper represented an “important shift” in the government’s housing strategy, which recognised the important role local government can play in solving the housing crisis, in its white paper response.

It was supportive overall of the new direction set by the housing white paper but stressed “there is no silver bullet” to fix the broken housing market.

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