Land assets ‘should be used to build housing’

24 Apr 18

Public sector expert Sir Michael Lyons has called for some of the soaring value of land assets to be used to boost social and affordable housing.

Speaking at a CIPFA event on Fixing the broken housing market, alongside the launch of a PF Perspectives essay collection on the same theme, he said there were “moral and economic arguments for reclaiming a bit more of that for the public purse”.

This was especially the case given that social housing is at an all-time low, yet the rise in land value assets are at a record high, he said.

Sir Michael, who headed the 2014 Lyons Housing Commission,  and chairs the English Cities Fund, said recent governments have been preoccupied with home ownership at the expense of building housing for all.

The Grenfell disaster is a momento mori to the squalid state of so much social housing, he argued, and the lack of capacity to rectify it.

Sir Michael welcomed Labour’s pledge, in its housing green paper, to suspend Right to Buy, which he called a failed policy that has had a “chilling effect” on local authorities’ ability to provide public housing.

So had the housing revenue account borrowing caps, said CIPFA housing panel chair Ken Lee. He urged local authorities to challenge the entire HRA system by bidding for the initial tranche of extra borrowing the Treasury has allowed.

At the same event, Shelter policy manager Deborah Garvie drew attention to the underlying causes of rising homelessness and rough sleeping, including an exponential rise in evictions from private rented accommodation.

Lower benefit levels are having devastating effects, said Garvie, including in the social housing sector, where landlords are worried that welfare payments will not keep up with rents.

Shelter supported the laudable aims of the 2018 Homelessness Reduction Act, she said. But “legislation is not enough if the homes aren’t there”.

Public sector architect Paul Karakusevic stressed the importance of fully involving residents in refurbishment and regeneration projects, and the huge potential for councils to reemerge as developers of best housing practice.

 “There has been a crisis of quality in public housing,” he said. “The old, top-down way of doing things no longer works.”

Did you enjoy this article?