A think tank has called for ‘a new devolution deal on housing’, which would give combined authorities powers to respond more flexibly to local circumstances.
A report from the IPPR, Closer to home, argues that if the Government is to get near its target of one million new homes by the end of the current Parliament an approach is needed that recognises the wide variation of circumstances across the country.
It says new powers included in very varied devolution deals, such as brownfield registers and public assets boards, spatial planning frameworks, mayoral development corporations, and new funding streams, go some way towards helping local areas shape their housing markets.
On the other hand, it says, ‘there has been a simultaneous tightening of control at the centre’, through the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), conditions attached to funding streams, starter home targets and right-to-buy, constraining local authority and combined authority plans.
According to the IPPR, a new devolution deal would be ‘a two-way process in which newly created combined authorities, under mayoral leadership, commit to ambitious long-term housebuilding targets in return for an expanded menu of powers and resources transferred down from central government’.
Local areas would be given more powers to co-ordinate strategic planning across council boundaries and tailor housing supply to the needs of their populations.
THE IPPR suggests that ‘an ambitious offer’ from the combined authorities and their constituent local authorities would include commitments to support the release of sufficient public land, the development of up-to-date Local Plans, with mayoral intervention where this process stalls, and ongoing negotiations with government on home ownership and housebuilding targets.
In return, the report says, an improved devolution offer from the Government would include:
- greater flexibility in the pooling and co-ordination of housing funding streams
- the retention of stamp duty receipts on all new-build properties
- a lifting of NPPF land use restrictions where brownfield opportunities alone are insufficient
- powers to set planning fees to improve capacity in planning departments
- and powers to set design code standards and viability frameworks at a combined authority level
The IPPR says mayoral development corporations are an opportunity to pilot new devolution powers and test implementation models, and combined authorities already granted these powers ‘should start to explore how these can be used to demonstrate their strategic ambitions and plans for housing’.