Council directors have criticised the Government’s newly launched Housing Infrastructure Fund for its competitive bidding process and emphasis on market forces, rather than housing need.
The fund, which is worth £2.3bn by 2020-21, will be allocated to local government on a competitive basis and is aimed at supporting the building of up to 100,000 private homes in areas of high demand, through funding necessary infrastrucure.
Simon Neilson, president of council directors’ body ADEPT, told Transport Network: ‘While we welcome new funding, the competitive bidding process can be resource intensive and risks local authorities’ already stretched capacity being diverted from the urgent day to day need to deliver better places.
‘Our emphasis on need is deliberate. Housing need is objectively assessed against key criteria. Here, the emphasis is placed on unlocking new homes in "areas of high demand', an altogether different proposition, led by market forces. We would like to see funding certainty to ensure infrastructure led housing is provided everywhere, housing that is appropriate to both place and need.'
The prospectus for the fund states that applications will be assessed on a number of criteria including ‘strong local leadership and joint working to achieve higher levels of housing growth in the local area, in line with price signals’.
When the fund was first announced in the chancellor’s Autumn Statement, it was said to be aimed at ‘unlocking new private house building in the areas where housing need is greatest’.
The Housing White Paper, published in February, stated: ‘We will target the £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund at the areas of greatest housing need.’
Communities secretary Sajid Mr Javid confirmed on Tuesday that ministers will this month launch a consultation on a new way for councils to assess their local housing requirements, as promised in the White Paper.