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RIBA suggests 20 ways government could tackle housing crisis

Abode, Great Kneighton by Proctor & Matthews Architects
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The RIBA has set out 20 key recommendations for dealing with the UK’s ‘dire housing crisis’

Among the ‘achievable and realistic’ pointers the institute is urging the government to adopt are: new rules to allow councils to borrow money for the construction of social housing; the removal of stamp duty when downsizing; and a VAT rebate scheme for the renovation and improvement of homes with poor energy efficiency.

The RIBA said it was ‘more vital than ever’ to ensure design quality was maintained in house-building, following the UK’s vote to leave the EU and the formation of a new government. 

RIBA president Jane Duncan said: ‘The actions we’ve set out are achievable and realistic steps the government can take now to tackle the housing crisis. Everyone has the right to live in a well-designed, sustainable, affordable home. We must work together to realise new solutions to make this a reality for the majority, not just the wealthy few.

‘High-quality design that offers better value for money in the long term is a key solution. Without better spending, the homes we build now will not be built to last and are simply storing up further challenges for the future.’

Alex Ely from the RIBA’s Housing Group said: ‘Demand for new homes continues to outstrip supply, and successive governments have failed to keep up. In particular, there is a huge shortage of genuinely affordable new homes to buy or rent in many parts of the country. Housing policy alone won’t be enough to solve a housing crisis with roots that are as complex as they are varied.

‘The only solution lies in bringing together the public and private sector to promote, enable and finance new homes, and improve the quality of the homes we already have and are already building.’

Last week the RIBA joined forces with other leading architectural bodies to demand that governments in the UK and Ireland protect free movement following the Brexit vote. 

RIBA’s ’Housing Matters: #20ways to tackle the housing crisis

  1. Housing policy should be added to the remit of the National Infrastructure Commission, and future infrastructure schemes should include details of their impact on housing supply.
  2. The government should adopt the RIBA and House of Lords’ Select Committee recommendation for the establishment of a chief built environment adviser.
  3. The cap on housing revenue account receipts should be lifted to allow councils to borrow to build social housing.
  4. Central and local government should set up public sector investment vehicles and a national housing investment bank to issue bonds and ISAs, recycle right-to-buy receipts and attract long-term institutional investment.
  5. Local authorities should set up local housing development funds, with initial capital for investment provided by local authority pension funds. Once such schemes are up and running, they would be able attract secondary institutional investment.
  6. Local leaders should be empowered to shape their local housing market by taking control over requirements for affordable housing, including the tenure composition for new developments (affordable rent, social rent, living rent, shared ownership, Starter Homes) based on local housing need, rather than fixed national targets.
  7. The Guiding Principles of the Estates Regeneration programme should be strengthened to ensure that engagement with local communities is at the heart of the process and to protect the rights of existing residents to remain after regeneration is complete– including those who exercised the right to buy.
  8. Sufficient resources must be made available to identify land, and for the management and promotion of the custom-build register.
  9. The government should ensure design review panels are an integral part of the planning process – particularly for larger and more complex schemes.
  10. Local and neighbourhood plans should include design review to help drive high-quality design in new housing developments.
  11. Key factors that affect quality of life and affordability of housing – such as space, access and environmental standards – should be subject to regular review to ensure that the highest possible standards are adopted.
  12. The value of social return should be given equal consideration to economic return, and the long-term impact of a proposal on the public sector should be taken into account to ensure that inappropriate development is avoided.
  13. Local authorities should consider partnering arrangements where land and ownership is retained by the authority, possibly in the form of Community Land Trusts, to ensure long-term best value for those assets.
  14. The removal of stamp duty when moving to a smaller home should be piloted in the Autumn Statement.
  15. A distinct, clear planning use class should be introduced for housing for older people, designed to Housing our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation (HAPPI) principles.
  16. Local authorities should be required to address the principles of inclusive design in internal and external environments and the needs of older people in plan-making and land allocation.
  17. Research into concerns around viability, build quality and overheating should be commissioned to help guide future standards.
  18. The metrics currently used to calculate energy efficiency and CO2 reduction should be reviewed, learning from other European countries such as Germany and Denmark.
  19. A VAT rebate scheme should be made available for the renovation and improvement of homes with poor energy efficiency.
  20. The Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill should be amended to ensure that viability assessments used in Section 106/CIL discussions are public documents – with no commercial confidentiality restrictions.



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