RICS on housing announcement – Urging developers to ‘do their duty’ shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what’s needed

Lewis Johnston, Parliamentary Affairs Manager, RICS :

“The planning changes announced today, under consultation, effectively mark the end of the localism experiment for housebuilding. In threatening to remove planning powers from councils who fail to deliver their target of new homes, the Prime Minister is suggesting local authorities bear at least some responsibility for the housing crisis. A variation of this charge has also been squarely levelled at private developers, who are accused of dragging their feet on developing land with planning permission, and are being urged to ‘do their duty to Britain’ or risk losing permissions in the future.

“Whilst we support measures to increase build out rates and push councils to deliver ambitious local plans, we believe the government is still missing the fundamental point about addressing the housing shortage.

“The real reason we no longer build enough homes to meet need is that councils no longer play any significant role in building new homes. Four decades ago local councils built 40% of all new homes, whereas now they contribute only a negligible amount. As RICS have previously proposed, this can only be rectified by giving councils more borrowing powers to build. The government needs to go much further than the tentative steps in the 2017 Budget and really lift the borrowing cap so councils can be a genuine player in housing again.

“Empowering councils in this way would be a better approach to delivering affordable homes than lambasting private developers. Urging them to ‘do their duty’ misses the point, and the task of delivering the affordable housing we need is not a role that fits them very well.

“Ensuring the right homes are built, and delivering the affordable homes that meet the needs of everyone, is vitally important for a functioning housing market.  We need action that doesn’t just tinker around the edges, but actually delivers all tenures the market needs.

“Ultimately, although this is another step in the right direction to address the supply and affordability issues within the housing market, we are still moving at an extremely slow pace.”