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View from the LGA Conference

The role of Councils in enabling housing delivery is more important now than ever.

At the recent LGA conference, Natalie Elphicke and Claire Coutinho of the Housing & Finance Institute spent time talking to Council Chief Executives and Leaders about their plans for housing. Overwhelmingly, we heard a clear expression that housing must not be pushed off the agenda. Housebuilding must continue so that we can provide the homes that will support strong and sustainable communities. This means that Councils will need to make full use of the tools available to them to keep sites moving, to attract business, to shape and invest in the places of the future.

The HFi has now worked with over 30 Councils on Housing Business Ready programmes and workshops. The range of tools, techniques and approaches has been impressive and varied. Our list of housing interventions that Councils can use to boost delivery is up to 41 tools and techniques. The list continues to expand as we meet with more and more Councils who are collaborating and working in exciting ways.

The LGA Conference was held in Bournemouth this year. Bournemouth Borough Council is an excellent example of a Council grasping the task of housing with both hands. Bournemouth was one of the early Councils to be awarded national Housing Business Ready status. From pursuit of partnership working, direct delivery to setting up wholly owned companies to support their housing agenda their commitment to housing has proved strong.
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They are not alone. Many have downplayed the revolution that we have seen in housebuilding in recent years. The often cited housing completions data depicts a modest albeit meaningful recovery of 152,000 homes delivered in 2014/15 compared to 133,000 in the post recession lows. However, housing completions are a trend indicator rather than a complete picture of new housing supply. A fuller picture is provided by DCLG’s net housing supply in England. This is released annually with a much longer data collection time. It also includes new builds, conversions, demolitions and can be a better indicator of the overall change to housing supply.

According to net housing supply, in 2014/15 an additional 174,000 homes were delivered in England alone. Considering new builds in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, it may be that close to 200,000 additional homes were delivered in the UK last year. This is a remarkable achievement. It puts the ambition of providing homes to meet within arm’s reach. It support the picture from the Valuation Office, where lately released figures on homes added to the council tax base exceeded
200,000 additional homes.

We must not stop now. Councils are doing fantastic work but we all need to do more. Now is the time to continue to flex those municipal muscles. To work together to build the homes we need.

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You can read more and download our latest HBR brochure here.