Housing Solutions: What’s needed for delivery?
The Housing Forum Housing Solutions Proposal sets out what we believe is needed from policymakers and funders of housebuilding to guide government investment in housing.
The Housing Forum call to action
Poor housing quality cause homelessness, poor health and a lack of opportunities in life. It contributes to carbon emissions and fuel poverty. Housing shortages make housing unaffordable and hold back economic growth as well as trapping people in poverty.
We want all political parties to commit collectively to support a long-term plan for housing – both in terms of stepping up the delivery of new housing and improving the condition of the existing stock. Such a commitment aligns with government policy objectives to address climate change, ensure building safety and provide economic stimulus.
Forward commitment is key. To build the homes we need, a consistent policy environment is required to enable housing businesses to plan for the long term – with planning for at least the next 20 years. Suppliers, manufacturers, and the full supply chain need to be supported by an effective procurement process.
The Housing Forum Housing Solutions Proposal sets out what we believe is needed from policy makers and those who fund housebuilding and guide government investment in housing. Our three key asks are:
- Increase housing supply – A Quality Home for All our citizens is essential. Housing should be seen as part of the growth agenda – as essential as transport infrastructure – and needed to address labour shortages in many areas. This includes better resourcing the planning system so that the quality homes of the future can be delivered.
- Improve quality, safety and sustainability – We must dramatically reduce the carbon emissions from housing. We need to drive the standards of new housing up further and faster and to support supply chains based on new technologies, alongside a national retrofit strategy.
- Ensure affordable housing and choice for all – Funding is needed for the affordable housing sector to deliver homes for those in need, and to enable housebuilding to continue over a period of housing market downturn. A range of housing products is needed to ensure choice for all generations.
Expanding The Housing Forum’s three key themes:
1. Increasing housing supply
Ensure housing is at the heart of decision-making by appointing a Secretary of State for Housing as a cabinet member
This will ensure that the importance of increasing housing supply and improving the quality of the homes we live is integrated into plans for economic growth, meeting our climate change commitments and improving quality of life.
Drive up housing supply with ambitious housing targets and policies to ensure that they are met
Housing markets have become generationally unbalanced with many young people denied access to housing choice, living with parents or unable to buy a home of their own. High rents and house prices are a result of long-term under-supply of housing leaving too many people competing for not enough homes. Policies need to address the generational divide with increased new homes supply.
Housing targets are vital for upping the game in local authorities, and ensuring they all help build the housing that is needed. Higher targets will drive up the numbers of homes built. Requiring local authorities to have at least five years’ land supply helps ensure that new housing is built.
It’s good to try to make better use of long-term empty homes, but the level of long-term empty homes in the UK is extremely low by international standards, and this won’t solve our housing crisis on its own and should not be used as a reason for not building.
Improve public sector procurement to underpin supply and quality
The pursuit of value for money through least initial cost procurement has failed the industry in quality and resulted in high profile failures. Public sector procurement obligations result in delays and numerous obligations to be satisfied before building can commence. The way construction is procured must change and the opportunity must be taken to reform this process and see construction as value added service with improved supply chain resilience. We support and encourage the adoption of the government’s Construction Playbook and encourage a whole life cycle approach to procurement.
Underpin housing supply with an effective planning system
Our planning system is stressed, under-performing and plagued by uncertainty on the future direction. This is acting as a barrier to the pace of delivery. It inhibits badly-needed smaller developers from forming and dampens investment. Very few planning applications are processed within statutory deadlines and local authorities are light on resources and expertise.
Uncertainty needs to be removed and clear direction provided to turbo-charge the building of beautiful homes. There is an urgent need to tackle the delays that have arisen recently as a result of new nutrient neutrality requirements having been brought in without the operational details being worked out. New environmental protections should not be implemented without the operational details being worked out, with measures being taken to ensure they do not adversely affect housing supply. Reforms should maximise democratic engagement up-front in the plan-making process and increase certainty at the point of individual planning applications which are in line with the plan. There should be a presumption that reserved matter consents are delegated to officers. The Infrastructure Levy has the potential to reduce uncertainty, though we believe that more needs to be done to safeguard funding for affordable housing within this new regime.
The voices of people who need housing, or who will live in housing that’s yet to be built, go unheard in debates around housebuilding. They need to be heard alongside those who volunteer their views from within existing communities when making local plans or determining planning applications. This entails a broader and more considered approach to community consultation.
Planning needs to rebuild its role in place-making and focus on design quality. Investment in infrastructure is essential to bring forward larger sites, and address the concerns of local residents.
It’s good to build on brownfield sites where practical, but these are not sufficient to meet needs. In some areas, local authorities and city regions should consider a strategic review of their greenbelt if it constrains their ability to build housing where it is most needed. Central government should support these ambitions and not try to lock down greenbelts in perpetuity.
Intensify partnership working between housebuilders and local authorities to commission supply
Local authorities are well placed to develop lasting partnerships which use the financial freedoms and resources available to them to build. The Government should use its capital funding tools to encourage and reward local authorities forging strategic investment at scale. We welcome the continued activity of Homes England acting as the Government’s housing accelerator, increasing engagement with local authorities, encouraging delivery partnerships. The Government should do more to encourage local authorities to commission housing and find ways to increase local authorities’ borrowing capacity in order to increase their ability to develop new homes.
2. Quality, safety and sustainability
Support a cross sector roadmap to housing sustainability with visibility of long term investment to achieve low carbon targets in both new and existing homes
We need significantly more investment in decarbonisation for both social housing and private housing. This will help reduce carbon emissions, tackle fuel poverty and improve energy and price security, reducing reliance on gas supplies from international markets. The Construction Leadership Council has set out proposals for a National Retrofit Strategy and the Government needs to take this forward as policy. This includes a focus on the skills needed.
Funding sources for retrofitting are too fragmented, short term and insufficient. Treasury support and long-term commitment is needed. Financial support for homeowners to invest in heat pumps and solid wall insulation are needed to make investment cost-effective and affordable for homeowners. A long-term secure programme of retrofit funding is needed for the social housing sector – building upon the ambitions of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund but ensuring certainty of funding for the investment needed across the social housing stock.
Poor energy efficiency is one of the main causes of poor quality housing, including damp and mould. Some housing stock may not be cost-effective to retrofit, so there are times when we should be considering demolition and rebuilding better quality zero carbon housing.
Some low carbon technologies (such as heat networks) require community-based approaches. The government needs to resolve issues around franchising, provision of infrastructure and whether there can be a market for heat within one area. The Government should also improve regulation, governance and technical standards for heat networks.
Skilling up the workforce to deliver and maintain the homes of the future
The Government should support the delivery of quality housing through a delivery plan to build the nation’s skills, encourage digitisation and through the use of its commissioning powers. New skills are needed across the whole housebuilding and renovating sector – from designers and planners to construction workers and experts teaching residents how to use new technology. A workforce plan for the new skills needed for building low carbon housing is needed.
Support visibility of forward investment by the supply chain
The government should support the construction sector to bring forward long-term investment in low carbon technologies. New technologies exist but companies lack the confidence in the supply chain needed to scale their businesses. This would support the supply chain needed to achieve low-carbon targets in new and existing homes.
Integrate decarbonisation plans and processes with quality, fire and building safety reforms
There is a need to integrate decarbonisation plans and processes with those improving housing quality, fire and building safety within local authorities, housing providers and freeholders.
Increase the use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) to futureproof the housebuilding industry
There is as much need as ever to modernise the construction sector. Use of MMC has developed since the Farmer Report, but there remains much to do. At present the government’s focus on MMC is focussed on making it a condition of funding for social housing. A more holistic approach is needed, which supports the industry from manufacturing to operation, and includes the private housebuilding sector.
New technologies need to be integrated within the supply chain to support the Government’s climate change commitments. Local authorities should be incentivised to aggregate demand and bring forward a larger pipeline of work actively focused on housing supply, considering the requirements of MMC at early stages in procurement. They should work visibly with mayoral and combined authorities over the long term to enable investment in appropriate systems and technology to deliver Modern Methods at scale and as a tool to achieve net zero carbon commitments. We support the development of innovative new technologies within homes including those that help older people to live independently.
Commit to post occupancy monitoring and ensuring that planned low carbon targets are understood by and are being delivered for residents
There is a lack of understanding of the user-experience of living in modern very low carbon homes with some of the most innovative technologies. Research is needed to ensure that new technologies are delivering as intended in the real world.
Improve building safety
The government has rightly made building safety a big issue in recent years, and secondary legislation now needs to be brought forward to bring the ambitions into operation. Close working between the whole of the housing and manufacturing sectors and government is needed to ensure that buildings are made safe, whilst ensuring that new development remains viable and existing buildings are remediated in a swift manner. A clear roadmap with clarity over transitional arrangements whenever standards are improved is vital to ensure that new housing continues to be built. The Government should also remove VAT from the costs of retrofitting, regeneration and fire safety work.
Deliver design quality
We support government policies driving improvements in housing quality. The government needs to ensure that the inclusion of beauty and place-making as material planning considerations works alongside Design Codes and the Future Homes Standard to deliver housing that is high quality in every sense – for occupants, local communities and the environment. The Government must use its commissioning and regulatory powers to support the housebuilding sector, including those the supply chain, local authorities and communities in the implementation of these changes.
3. Ensure affordable housing and choice for all
Commit to long-term sufficient funding for building affordable homes
There is an historic supply-side deficit of affordable homes for both rent and shared ownership. Capital funding for affordable homes has not kept pace with population and household growth. This has left many without access to homes that are affordable. Government should make an unequivocal commitment to funding an increased level of affordable homes. Funding for affordable housing can also help to keep the housebuilding sector building at times of uncertainty in the housing market
Ensure that local authorities are supported to maximise affordable housing delivery
The Government should ensure that introducing the Infrastructure Levy does not result in fewer affordable homes being built or in the ones built being less affordable. There is broad support for the principles of the Infrastructure Levy but concerns about how it will operate in practice, especially if alongside S106 and CIL. Improving local authorities’ confidence with CPOs powers already available can also help to bring forward sites for housing at prices that enable a higher proportion of affordable housing.
Ensure choice for all
There is value in targeted homeownership, demand side measures and a specific supply focus through fiscal incentives such as stamp duty exemptions to support young household formation. Intermediate housing options and Build-to-Rent can also help to extend choice and increase overall supply. Specialist housing for older people is part of the mix that is needed.
Support community-led development and self and custom build approaches
Community-led approaches can help build local support for housing, by allowing those who will live in it to be at the heart of the process. This may include multi-generational housing and co-housing for older people. Support needs to be reflected in planning policy and by reinstating the Community Housing Fund as a feed-in to the Affordable Homes Programme for undercapitalised community organisations.
Work towards a fairer regime for rents and housing costs for both residents and housing providers
The costs paid by residents of different types of affordable housing are not always fair. In particular shared owners pay more in rent and maintenance than other subsidised homeownership products, and Affordable Rent tenants pay more than social renters for the same product. Reforms to the costs of social housing would bring fairness. Alongside this, there is a need for rent settlements to consider the costs incurred by housing providers, and to give them the security needed to invest.
Enable low income households to rent homes in the marketed rented sector
Caps on Local Housing Allowance which are not inflated with market rents pose a barrier to building market housing for lower income groups, including refugees. The Government should commit to ensuring that Local Housing Allowance remains pegged to the 30th percentile of market rents, and changes as market rents change.
What our members say
‘With so much knowledge and experience to draw on, and a clear determination to ‘give something back’, joining The Housing Forum gives us not just a better understanding of the market we work in but an opportunity to channel our passion for quality to the greater good of the industry we serve and to shape it’s future.’
Baily Garner LLP
What our members say
‘We believe our involvement with the Forum will help provide an opportunity to share information and exchange views with a network of leading professionals. We are particularly looking to capitalise on the greater flexibilities available for councils to build again, and in doing so, explore innovative ways to build the homes our citizens need both now and in the future.’
Bristol City Council
What our members say
‘We joined The Housing Forum to have the opportunity to network and collaborate with other housing providers to establish best practice and make our voice heard.’
Cross Keys Homes
What our members say
‘We joined The Housing Forum to collaborate with other members who are looking to improve the quality of the homes they provide and share experiences of how this can be achieved. We want to challenge existing thinking and practices in the industry about what better really means and could look like.’
What our members say
‘NHBC supports and promotes the excellent work of The Housing Forum, whose breadth of membership, thought-provoking working groups and regional events mean it identifies the real needs of the sector. The promotion of partnership across house building that is central to the Housing Forum’s purpose is key to NHBC, with all elements of the sector having a role in increasing the quality of new housing supply.’
What our members say
‘As specialists in energy saving and cost and carbon reduction solutions for the district heating and community heating market, Switch2 appreciates the opportunity to engage with cross-sector housing professionals and to have an opportunity to share best practice and our experience and expertise.’
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