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Better Planning: Housing affordability

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Housing costs of all types and tenures are rising across the UK, as part of a phenomenon frequently referred to as 'the housing crisis'. The high cost of housing is not confined to house prices; whatever type of accommodation people live in they are spending a disproportionate amount of their income on it. This trend is illustrated by the consistent rise of the housing cost to income ratio over the last 20 years, and today more than 3 million households in the UK spend more than a third of their income on housing costs.

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The situation is often explained with reference to a lack of housing supply, but there is in fact a multitude of other factors involved too: a dysfunctional land market; demand stimulating policy measures; intergenerational inequity; lack of development finance; skills shortages in the construction sector; the location of development; the tax system; housing being treated as a short term issue due to political cycles; and the financialisation of housing particularly in London and the South East.

Although the issue of housing affordability is clearly complex, policy making in recent years has sought to simplify the issue by sweeping away planning regulations as a means to increasing supply and making housing more affordable. Altering planning policy may have an impact on housing costs, but it is important to bear in mind that the impact is unclear and that deregulation is just one of a range of options available to policy makers.

This work stream will consider how proactive planning can deliver housing affordability. It is important to make this argument not only because it is largely absent in the debates around housing and affordability, but also because according to the figures the current approach is failing. Alternative proposals to deregulation have been quite muted until now, and this presents an opportunity for the RTPI to offer a more progressive, solution orientated position.

This project will use a broad definition of affordability which encompasses not only house prices but also transport accessibility, local economic opportunities, and access to public services. Essentially all of the things that good planning delivers alongside housing.

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