Jonathan Headland, urban design director for West Waddy Archadia (WWA Studios), asks if there could be a way ahead for the housing market which avoids the Nimby issue.
People are the real barrier to change for all available housing supply-side reform options.
Politicians of all colours, underpinned by vocal opponents to development who are mobilised to vote, shape this debate.
From the resurgence of strategic planning through sensible planning system reforms and enhanced investment in local planning authorities to a more collaborative and open design process fostered by a new School of Place – without tackling the unpopular nature of development with this empowered voter set, the overarching political factors which inform and shape the supply of housing will not improve and the consolidation of the preservation of the status quo mindset will be complete.
In the absence of useful current Government reform to the sector, how can we help shape wider attitudes towards development, recapturing hearts and minds towards a greater collective good?
The mechanisms of supply for housing in this country suffer from a very negative public perception. It is not an uncommon stereotype for the developer to be painted as some uncaring fat cat, just as it is similarly familiar to encounter derisory comments about tenants of affordable housing or ‘council housing’.
Moving society away from this polarising view would be a useful first step to enabling conversations around housing for families.
You don’t have to look far back into our collective past for a time when council housing was seen as a golden opportunity, rather than an option of last resort. Incidentally, this was also the last golden era of housing whereby the now infamous 300,000 new homes target was met, largely due to the impact the public sector can have on the delivery of new homes and public perception of delivery.
Imagine the positive impact if the proceeds of the approximately £47 billion receipts to date from Right to Buy had been reinvested into large-scale affordable housing provision.
Right to Buy continues to erode affordable housing provision year-on-year, with supply via third parties unable to keep up with this demand to own our homes. The direct and total reinvestment of Right to Buy proceeds into high-quality affordable housing schemes offers an opportunity for the public sector to lead the way once again in what new housing can be.
This is especially important in the face of the current direction of travel from the Government in terms of a brownfield-first approach to new housing delivery. Owing to the complex and expensive nature of developments in brownfield settings, which are almost exclusively within urban contexts, viability factors mean developments of this sort often deliver little to no affordable housing.
A refocus on urban setting brownfield land for mainstay housing provision is fundamentally flawed. Indeed, cities like London and Bristol could build just 24 per cent of the homes they need over the next 15 years on currently existing brownfield sites.
Sir Keir Starmer MP, leader of the Labour Party, has begun to outline his party’s key principles for the next General Election. A recently-published document, detailing Labour’s plan to deliver on Starmer’s economic growth mission, said Labour would reform planning rules to deliver more affordable homes and help first-time buyers onto the housing ladder.
Reframing this debate around economic prosperity, rather than housing delivery, is a useful step in the right direction and, if linked to a resurgence in linked strategic plan-making and economic strategies, could move us away from Nimbyism.
If we are to have learned anything from the lessons of the past in terms of housing delivery in this country, meaningful reprovision of affordable housing stocks and a focus on economic prosperity for all must be where we start.
Last week Jonathan Headland looked at how supply, demand and policy changes direct the housing crisis.
In his next article, the third of four, he asks with a populist planning agenda front and centre of current Government rhetoric, how will the Government seek to fulfil its 300,000 home delivery targets? And what will that mean for our communities?
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