Expand Homes England and scrap ‘80/20’ rule, housing experts say

Homes England should be given a larger role in housing policy and the ’80/20′ rule should be scrapped to ensure fairer housing funding for the North, according to a new collection of essays.

Building for renewal: kickstarting the C19 housing recovery, a new collection of essays by the independent think tank Localis, sets out how housing policy and the planning system could be reformed to support the UK’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The collection, which brings together ideas from Localis and over 20 leading housing experts, calls for Homes England to be given an expanded role in shaping housing policy, with new powers to use surplus public land and support spatial plan delivery.

Investing in a ‘new generation’ of social housing, reaching out to young people to inform planning decisions, and supporting SMEs to build more ‘garden settlements’ are just a few of the other suggestions contained in the collection.

Localis chief executive, Jonathan Werran, said: “Given the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in, housing’s fundamental social and economic role and transformative capacity to drive change and growth assumes even greater significance.

“This paper sets out astute and creative thoughts from a broad range of individual experts and organisations as to how we might use the primacy of place to direct a return to housing growth.

“Uniquely, by kickstarting housebuilding we can directly unlock recovery in ways that can not only overcome entrenched economic difficulties, but also renew our communities, helping society improve on what was before and genuinely build back better.”

Northern-focused ideas in the collection include granting wide access to the government’s proposed Single Housing Infrastructure Fund, which featured in this year’s Budget.

Nigel Wilson, chair of Homes for the North, which represents 17 housing associations across the North of England, criticised the current ‘80/20′ rule, which sees 80% of Homes England funding targeted at areas of the country under the ‘highest affordability pressure’.

Just four out of 72 Northern local authorities are eligible for funding under the rule, leading housing associations across the North of England to call for it to be scrapped.

In addition to scrapping the ’80/20 rule’, Wilson added that the government should support housing associations rooted in their local communities and encourage Northern councils to boost housing land supply.

“There is an opportunity in the months ahead to invent new democratic partnerships with local government to deliver more homes, better places and more resilient communities,” Wilson wrote.

“With the right policy initiatives from national government, around planning and funding new homes, as well as on devolution of powers to local and regional government, tangible improvements to millions of lives across the North are within reach, even in these most testing of times.”

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