In many areas of policy the role of local authorities is changing rapidly. Increasingly they are expected to play a more facilitative curating role, which ties together many strands of social and economic life including public health, the local economy, education, and the public realm, into something more coherent and joined-up.
In housing too the recent review by House and Elphicke argued that councils should become housing delivery enablers rather than pursue the traditional role of directly funding and building houses.
The new report from Mears and LGiU looks at whether councils are ready to take on this role.
Recent estimates suggest that we need to build between 243,000 and 280,000 houses a year just to meet current demand. This is a huge challenge that will require innovation, new partnerships and investment.
Councils will have a big part to play in helping to plug the gap, and they are keen to start building again. There is political will for them to do so and the public feels that government should improve access to housing. But they will need to approach their role in a more creative way. Our research suggests there are pockets of innovation and some impressive examples of councils showing leadership, confidence and vision, but it is not widespread across the sector. Our report makes a number of recommendations for councils, to help ensure that they are able to deliver enough houses for their communities in the future:
- Promote leadership and innovation to turn political will into reality
- Address their skills gaps
- Consider housing deals and combined housing authorities
- Rethink departmental structures
- Continuation of the New Homes Bonus
- Make incentives for house building central to future devolution arrangements
- Ensure that incentives for house building are central to the implementation of the Right to Buy extension