In the final article in a series which started earlier this year, Jonathan Headland, urban design director for WWA Studios, offers an expert summary of where affordable homes lie within the housing crisis.
As the cyclical ebb and flow of private sector housing delivery plays out again in the wake of wider economic and political factors, could an emboldened affordable housing sector come to the rescue of meaningful new housing delivery?
Aside from the post-2020 White Paper, stagnation in Local Plan preparation we have seen across the country, various remedies to fix this over and above setting a policy narrative (or Housing Minister) and sticking with it – there has been less focus on enhanced delivery of the affordable housing sector.
The decline in meaningful affordable housing provision goes hand in glove with the development of the housing crisis. An over-reliance on the private sector to deliver the homes the country needs has failed.
Indeed, the only time, long-term meaningful provision of new homes was achieved was in the last period of mainstay ‘council’ house’ building from the 1950s through the mid-1970s, largely due to the impact the public sector can have on the delivery of new homes and public perception of that delivery.
Following the introduction of Right to Buy in 1980, erosion of existing housing stock, coupled with burgeoning cost demands on retrofit and management of existing properties, led to the eventual demise of mainstay local authority ownership of affordable housing in the 1990s.
In the years since we have seen the local housing associations merge into regional ones in the search for wider efficiencies and operational effectiveness.
Recent mergers and acquisitions, such as the Abri and the Sovereign Network Homes deal, allow the emergence of truly regional players, capable of effecting real change, managing stock effectively and independently delivering enhanced new affordable homes into the future.
Given the huge deficit in housing delivery and quality compared to our European neighbours, as laid bare in the recent HBF report into UK housing stock in an international context. A turbocharging of delivery, free of market inflationary side effects, will be required to move the needle on the day-to-day of the housing crisis.
A call to arms in the wider affordable sector is long overdue and perhaps we are starting to see a glimmer of this positive focus from the precursor announcements of this year’s Labour Party conference.
Let’s hope the reframing of meaningful, well-planned housing delivery, across both private and affordable sectors, can help inform and shape the wider debate around a planning system which delivers these outcomes – rather than the current system which seeks to do so in spite of the politicised reality of planning for housing in the UK today.
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