An independent and wide-ranging review into how more social homes can be built has been launched by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, and the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, today (Thursday 30 January).
The review will be led by Natalie Elphicke, chair of Million Homes, Million Lives, and Keith House, Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council.
This review will assess if councils are making sufficient use of their existing powers and flexibilities to deliver new social housing. For instance, councils could use their property portfolio more effectively to finance housebuilding by selling expensive vacant properties and using the receipts to build new affordable homes.
The review will also consider how councils can work more closely with housing associations, housebuilders and businesses to build more new homes.
The chairs of the review will also ensure that it gives adequate consideration to new freedoms and flexibilities which could be given to councils to deliver new social housing.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander said:
The government is on track to deliver 170,000 new affordable homes over this Parliament, and from next year we will be building new affordable homes at the fastest rate for 20 years.
I am, however, determined that we do even more to support affordable and good quality housing in the UK. That is why we have announced this new review into the role local authorities can play in helping to meet our housing needs and I am delighted that Natalie and Keith have agreed to lead this.
Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles added:
The coalition government has got Britain building again. Housebuilding is now at its highest level since 2007 and construction orders are growing at the fastest rate for 10 years. But there is still more to do.
Our reforms have already untied the hands of councils so they can take more responsibility for housing in their area. This review will now consider if extra freedoms and financial flexibilities could be devolved to councils, so they can build more homes that local people need.
Natalie Elphicke said:
More council houses have been built since 2010 than in the previous decade. Our review will look at whether more can be done to help councils to deliver more homes for their communities.
Councillor Keith House said:
Local authorities have a vital role in contributing to housing supply of all tenures. Our review will test how councils are meeting that challenge and where there is potential for innovation and creativity to increase the number of new homes built.
This new review will build on a number of significant and innovative reforms the government has already put in place to support more new homes in local communities.
The government has untied the hands of councils through unprecedented reforms to the system for council house finance. Local authorities can now keep their rental income, in return for taking more responsibility for their housing businesses. At last year’s Autumn Statement this freedom was extended by inviting councils to bid for a share of £300 million of extra borrowing to build 10,000 new affordable homes.
The government has also committed to fund 165,000 new affordable homes over three years from 2015, the fastest rate of affordable house building for more than 20 years, leveraging in significant amounts of private sector investment, resulting in over £23 billion of public and private sector funding available for social housing. This is on top of the 170,000 the government is on track to deliver between 2011 and 2015.
Natalie Elphicke is chair of Million Homes, Million Lives. It works with councils and housing associations for more better-quality affordable housing that is built in the right places. She is also non-executive director of Principality Building Society. She is a qualified barrister and solicitor, and previously a city law firm partner specialising in housing finance.
Keith House is a Board Member of the Homes and Communities Agency, and Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council. While at Eastleigh Council he oversaw an innovative approach to housing which saw the council establish a company to enable the delivery of housing across a range of tenures. Keith is also the Deputy Chair of the Local Government Association Environment & Housing Board.
Photo courtesy of lydia_shiningbrightly on Flickr, used under Creative Commons.