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7th December 2015

Solace ‘Addressing the Housing Challenge’ policy paper published today

On Monday 7 December 2015, Solace published a policy paper entitled ‘Addressing the National Housing Challenge’. This is a statement from Martin Swales, Solace Spokesperson on Economic Prosperity and Housing and Chief Executive of South Tyneside Council.

“Housing delivery and affordable housing supply stands as one of the major social challenges that the country is facing. Issues around housing supply and growing demand, as well as rapidly increasing house prices, have pushed this issue to the top of the Local Government agenda. The Chancellor’s Spending Review announcements on housing last week further demonstrate the importance of the issue and Government’s interest in addressing it.

“Developing locally appropriate and integrated solutions is vital when addressing the issue of housing and we believe that Local Authorities are perfectly placed to meet this challenge.”

This paper sets out an invitation to Government and partners to work with Solace to help transform the landscape of housing nationally. It outlines a set of mutually supportive proposals that would help provide local solutions and support Government’s commitment to deliver one million new homes within this Parliament, whilst also helping to establish a sustainable, affordable housing sector. Our proposals are listed below:

1. New housing investment, tailored to the requirements of the locality, should feature in every devolution deal.

2. Long-term and committed funding streams should be available to Local Authorities to enable them to adopt a strategic, long-term, approach to housing investment.

3. Whilst we acknowledge that some public sector land may be in remote or otherwise unsustainable locations not suitable for large-scale residential developments, public sector land (including Local Authority land holdings) should be one of the principal sources of new housing and appropriately supported by investment from Government.

4. Local Authorities should be granted the freedoms to re-invest locally-generated income in the provision of new housing.

5. Housing Revenue Account borrowing caps should be removed to allow Local Authorities to borrow prudentially and deliver housing.

6. Mechanisms are needed to disseminate knowledge between Local Authorities about new public/private investment vehicles.

7. New covenants should be introduced to ensure that both owner-occupation from the exercise of ‘Right to Buy’, and the development of more Low-Cost Starter homes, support the aim of increasing home ownership.

8. The powers of Local Authority housing services should be enhanced to ensure the highest standards for all tenants, whether in the private or public sector.

9. Local Authorities should consult with Government to support further reform of the planning system.

10. Skills investment needs to be co-ordinated between Local and Central Government to ensure that the construction jobs lost at the peak of the recession are re-established.

Housing is one of Solace’s key policy priorities and Solace wishes to work with Central Government and partners, including the Homes and Communities Agency, Local Government Association, housing associations, the National Housing Federation and the Town and Country Planning Association, to address the national housing challenge and make a real difference. Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Officers are ready for the challenges ahead and this policy document is a testimony to that.