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Housing institute calls for more resources for English towns to build new homes

New housing should be focused in towns and counties instead of cities in England as these are the areas that need the investment, according to a new report.

The Housing and Finance Institute is calling for a fairer share of housing money to be given to councils in towns, counties and districts as they are leading the way with new development but are under resourced.

It argues that there has been a longstanding emphasis on giving a bigger share of the money to big cities and metropolitan areas who are only responsible for around 30% of new homes.

‘Following the EU referendum, it is clear that things need to change if we are going to succeed in building a Britain that works for everyone. This must include rewarding energetic councils across England who toil to make the housing difference but who don’t have the comfortable cash flow or big balance sheets of the largest cities and housing associations,’ said HFI chief executive Natalie Elphicke.

‘Change is afoot in our coastal communities, the country villages and market towns, the post-industrial heartlands and historic cities and counties of England. There is an ambition to build and shape housing choice for local communities. Too often it has been the noisy major metropolitan cities or the massive housing associations already awash with cash who ask for even more,’ she pointed out.

‘Yet the beating heart of sustainable housing delivery is in the counties, ordinary towns and districts of England. It’s time to harness the energy across the country in building homes and regenerating communities. The Government needs to put more of its housing money where the opportunity to deliver is and that means right across the country,’ she added.

The HFI’s report shows that around 70% of new homes and homes permissioned for planning are currently in the district and unitary councils. That far outweighs the combined contribution of the London and metropolitan councils, who currently get the lion’s share of cash and attention.

The Institute has highlighted housing zones to demonstrate this skewed funding. London has secured almost 100 times as much initial funding in this area than the rest of England, but will deliver only twice the number of homes.

London has secured £600 million of housing zones allocations, which they are planning to build 75,000 homes with. This is compared to just £6.3 million allocated for the rest of England in the same period, which will result in 34,000 new homes.

It is calling for regional councils to keep the cash from any valuable houses they sell, to be exempted from the high value assets levy and given extra cash allocations and financial support if they can show they can and will deliver more homes.

‘If a council can show it is housing business ready, has a good track record and will commit to minimum housing targets, why shouldn’t it get the type of individual deals, powers and money given to the big devolved city authorities,’ said Elphicke.

‘It isn’t the case in housing delivery that biggest is best as some of our coastal communities, country villages and market towns, post-industrial heartlands together and historic cities and counties of England are absolutely brilliant at making housing delivery happen and are delivering the majority of our new homes. If a council knows what it is doing and is doing a good job in housing delivery, government should give it greater support and resources. That should apply to smaller councils too,’ she explained.

The HFI has also launched a new book that provides councils with a ready-made strategy for building more homes, more quickly. The strategy is designed to help councils deliver more homes by fully using their assets and resources and collaborating across the public and private sector.

Elphicke said it aimed to give councils support and strategic clarity in their growth and housing agendas. By helping local government devise a more effective housing strategy to make the best their resources, we will continue to deliver the homes that we need across the country.”

In the book Lord Kerslake says that all councils have a special responsibility and a unique opportunity to shape their communities and build more homes which are right for their areas and no one should underestimate how hard it will be to deliver the new houses the nation requires nor how important.

Ashford, Bournemouth and Stoke on Trent, all councils who have been awarded the Institute’s Housing Business Ready status, are highlighted in the new book and show that there are housing opportunities all around the country.