Call for more powers for big cities to tackle housing crisis

3rd November 2016

The government must devolve more powers over housing to city regions such as Greater Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands to tackle the housing crisis, according to a new report.

The report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) North, a think tank, claims that ministers will miss the government’s target of building one million new homes by 2020 unless they give the city regions and metro mayors more control over planning, funding and housing supply.

“If the government is to even come close to hitting its target, then the wide variation across the country – the different housing opportunities, challenges and requirements – must be recognised”, claims the IPPR.

Combined authorities should be able to retain stamp duty receipts on all new-build properties to top up housing investment funds, and should be allowed more flexibility on council tax rates on empty sites to ensure that properties are brought to market more quickly, the IPPR said.

The report recognises that some new powers – such as brownfield registers and direct capital funding for specific housing targets – have already been given to some city regions. But these have come alongside a simultaneous tightening of control in Westminster, where the IPPR believes a series of policies and targets are constraining local authority and combined authority plans.

These restrictions include the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) placing limits on the release of land; the conditions attached to Homes and Communities Agency and devolved funding, with strict regulations on where money can be spent; targets for starter homes targets to be met on new developments; and the sale of social housing through the right to buy.

“To meet national targets local areas must be given more powers that can be used to co-ordinate strategic planning across boroughs, tailor housing supply to the needs of their populations and ensure that housing and developments are delivered to a high standard of design”, the report says.

The IPPR believes a dealmaking process is required to generate a new devolution deal on housing.

“This must be two-way, and start with an ambitious offer from the combined authorities and their constituent local authorities”, says the report.

Following these demands, government should respond with an improved devolution offer.

One of the things authorities should ask for is greater flexibility in the pooling and co-ordination of housing funding streams, allowing them to gather resources in a way that ensures appropriate tenure mix while still meeting volume requirements.

“Mayoral development corporations are an opportunity for piloting new devolution powers and combined authorities with these powers already negotiated should start to explore how these can be used to demonstrate their strategic ambitions and plans for housing”, the report adds.

Source: Property Week, 03/11/16 – click to read full article.