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RTPI’s 16 Ways to Address the Housing Crisis: #RTPI16Ways

04 November 2016

London -1029191

Today the RTPI launches its 16 Ways in 16 Days campaign which outlines the Institute’s recommendations for tackling the housing crisis in England. Follow #RTPI16ways on Twitter and join the debate.

Chief Executive Trudi Elliott has written to the UK Minister for Planning and Housing, Gavin Barwell ahead of the release of the Housing White Paper for England, to re-affirm the RTPI’s 16 point action plan to help the Government achieve its ambitious house building targets.  

“The major house builders alone cannot be expected to deliver all the homes we need. In addition, changes to the English planning system over the last 30 years have failed to deliver the homes we need,” says Trudi Elliott.

“There is no “magic bullet” but a complex range of interdependencies which professional planners are best placed to navigate, with Government support, to create places and homes that people want to live in, in the volumes the country needs. We have a comprehensive package of suggestions for the Prime Minister, Secretary of State and Minister to ensure a plan for homes for all.”

The RTPI has a number of policies that address the complex set of issues around creating more housing whilst maintaining and improving places: 

1. Offer ready permitted sites to SME builders

Offer ready permitted sites to SME builders and support them in the new industrial strategy.  We need to get them building again.

2. Keep Housing Associations building

Keep Housing Associations building. Housing Associations helped to get the industry through previous downturns and keep us building homes; they need to be supported to do so again.

3. Let Local Authorities charge the planning fees they need

Let Local Authorities charge the planning fees they need to properly resource their planning service. Developers will pay for an efficient and responsive service. Planning departments have suffered greater cuts than other local authority functions, it has to stop and be reversed.

4. Require a city region wanting a devolution deal to have a plan for housing

Require a city region wanting a devolution deal with government on jobs infrastructure and other funding to have a plan to deliver the supporting homes required by those jobs. Money talks.

5. Make Land Registry an open data organisation

Make Land Registry an open data organisation.  In order to strategically plan for houses we need data on who owns the land and where. 

6. Create a fiscal regime that encourages Build to Rent

Create a fiscal regime that encourages “Build to Rent”. We are a complete outlier as a nation in failing to supply purpose-built properties to rent with longer term security.

7. Government must provide stronger direction on suitable land for housing

Think widely and carefully about where we build new homes. Brownfield land should be made to achieve its full potential. Involve communities in places which are undergoing regeneration. Some housing may need to go on greenfield - so long as planned properly. Green belts must work well for every one in society - across wider subregions.

8. Encourage innovation in climate change mitigation

Encourage innovation in climate change mitigation and energy efficiency in the industrial strategy. We need mechanisms to improve the energy efficiency of the existing housing stock, and policies which ensure that new homes are compliant with our carbon reduction targets. This should form a core part of the industrial strategy. 

9. Make more of the existing housing stock

Make more of the existing housing stock, pay attention to how the rental market and structure, and how taxation and housing benefit policy drives behaviours and the market. We must recognise the true value of planning is in the long term creation of great places, increasing certainty for everyone, and market shaping so the market works more effectively for all.

10. Find innovative ways of funding affordable housing

Find innovative ways of funding the affordable housing elements of consented developments to keep them delivering. We must learn the lessons from the 2008 financial crisis and cannot let the challenges that major house builders will face in a downturn result in whole developments being stalled. Too much of planners', developers' and councillors’ time was wasted during the post-crash recession arguing over which element of a permitted housing scheme was cut to make it stack up financially. Almost a decade on the housing crisis has deepened. We must not let this happen again.

11. Invest in the next generation of those who will make housing happen

Invest in the next generation of those who will make the housing happen. Government has backed our planner’s bursary scheme; we need to make working in the built and natural environment open and inspiring to all.

12. Get the public sector building

Get the public sector building. Local authority-commissioned home building has to be part of the solution. The LGA and the Federation of Master builders have stepped up already and said they are up for it. Cleverly used it can create markets and support private sector provision. It’s not either/or.

13.   Align transport infrastructure and housing delivery more effectively

Align transport infrastructure and housing delivery more effectively. Start by assessing infrastructure projects for the development land they unlock, not just their impact on speed and congestion. Longer term proper spatial planning is a key tool.

14. Allow Planning Inspectors to find local plans partially sound

Allow Planning Inspectors to find local plans partially sound. Don’t let problems with one small policy area hold up a Local plan having the weight it needs in steering where homes go.

15. Encourage local authorities to be proactive in land assembly

Encourage local authorities to be proactive in land assembly to unblock land for homes as well as wider socially and economically beneficial development.

16. Intervene in the land market and capture the benefits from transport investment

In the longer term we need to explore the operation of the land market, an issue explored by the House of Lords in their report on the economics of housing. We need to better capture some of the increase in land value particularly from public investment so we can fund affordable housing and the infrastructure good places and homes need.

The current system in England results in too much of planners' time being spent arguing the theoretical number of “housing units “a local authority area needs. The focus must shift to delivering the homes the country needs to include different tenures and in ensuring appropriate places to build them on.