Frances Traynor's picture

Councils develop innovative partnerships to meet housing needs

Wed, 08 Nov 2017



This article refers to a recent Home Buyers Survey.

There are myriad reasons for the crisis in UK housing that has decreased supply while prices seem to rise inexorably, putting a home of their own out of the reach of many ordinary people.

One factor in the lack of supply is older people, who may traditionally have downsized in retirement, are unable to access suitable housing for their needs. Now the Government is taking steps to encourage more sheltered and extra-care housing to be made available through funding certainty and encouraging local authorities into more long-term investment and increased supply of properties for older people and the vulnerable.

The government intends to ring-fence funding for supported housing in a grant to local authorities that will come into effect by April 2020, while local authorities will be expected to adhere to a National Statement of Expectation that sets out the provision in their area.

Increasing supply of the sort of supported housing that will give older people more security and amenities as they age should in turn free up standard properties for those desperate to own a home of their own.

A more hands-on approach

This is just one aspect of broader thinking that is going on in local authorities on how to increase the supply of homes for buyers in their areas. While a return to the mass building of social housing that took place in the three decades after the Second World War looks unlikely, councils and housing associations are engaging in innovative thinking and practice to increase local developments.

Currently nine in 10 developments seeking planning permission is given the go-ahead in England, but proposed changes in the planning system have been slow to be implemented.

Some councils are becoming more hands-on in encouraging development, using vehicles such as local housing companies and joint venture partnerships with the likes of housing associations and private builders.

These arm's length organisations allow councils to finance the building of affordable housing for sale and rent in their area without having to do the actual construction themselves.

Exerting influence for local benefit

According to Public Sector News, there are around 50 local housing companies in operation in England now. As partners in new developments, councils can use their financial and political influence to encourage builders to create the sort of properties their area requires most.

There's some way to go before the supply of housing to buy meets the demand across the UK, but innovative schemes involving disparate partners could satisfy some local needs quickly.

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