By David Cowans, Chief Executive of Places for
Over the past three decades we have not built enough homes in
the UK to meet demand.
DCLG's latest house building statistics released last month
showed 139,690 homes were constructed in England in 2015/16.
As such we are still almost 60,000 behind the Government's
pledge to build
200,000 homes a year and one million new homes over the
lifetime of this Parliament.
However, to compensate for the shortfall in new housing delivery
over a number of years, the TCPA estimates a need for 312,000 new
units annually; meaning we are 170,000 homes behind their
As a result, millions of people are locked out of home
ownership, including the young and those on low incomes, while the
lack of supply has increased the cost of renting and the cost of
the Government's welfare bill.
In 2014, almost twice the proportion of working households received
housing benefit than in 2008-09.
With state funding in short supply and austerity
the 'new normal', everyone agrees we must find ways to trigger
investment, including finding additional sources of funding to help
boost housing supply.
Crucially, we need to stop looking inwards to find solutions and
instead look at what lessons we can learn and potentially adopt
This is why I am hosting a session at the 2016 CIH
Housing conference with Professor Duncan Maclennan, who has
advised the governments of Poland, France, Sweden, Ireland, Canada
and Australia on their housing policy. Also joining us will be,
Julian Silver, Governance Director of Housing New Zealand, and,
Francois Guidot, Strategy and International Relations Manager at
Polylogis Group in France.
One example of a new approach from abroad is using tax breaks to
stimulate new housing production.
In 2014 Places for People partnered with De Montfort University to
investigate how other countries are increasing housing supply. Our
research has shown tax breaks widely available abroad could play a
key role in increasing affordable housing in the UK.
Importantly these tax breaks come with incentives - tax
concessions are only realised if additional good quality housing at
below market rent is delivered to those with incomes below locally
prescribed limits. These measures therefore incentivise an increase
in good quality housing, which is accessible and affordable to low
France has used these tax incentives to good effect and is the
only place in Europe where the supply of social housing is
Consequently, France built more than 30,000 affordable housing
units every year between 1994 and 2004, and 60,000 additional homes
were built using various tax based schemes in 2010. To put that in
perspective those 60,000 homes would put the Government within a
whisker of its target for 200,000 new homes a year. In addition,
this approach could deliver a significant increase in new housing
starts without a major increase in public expenditure.
We already have vehicles such as Venture Capital Trusts and
Enterprise Investment Schemes which offer 30% tax breaks for
investors in certain industries - why not include affordable
housing in these?
However, as a country we need to make sure we do not just focus
on the quantity of new homes as the quality of the homes and
neighbourhoods we build is more important.
New housing must put the needs of people first and new
neighbourhoods that we create need to be socially, economically and
Community infrastructure must be put at the heart of new
neighbourhoods in order to create successful communities,
especially when developing larger sites which are delivering new
homes at scale.
This is why we are working with local government to provide
three new schools, a hotel, commercial space, new roads, high-speed
fibre optic broadband, and 100 acres of parkland as part of a
housing development to deliver 2,500 new mixed tenure homes in
As a sector we need to have a debate about how we can increase
our housebuilding and placemaking capabilities while also
maintaining the difference we are making to the existing
neighbourhoods we manage.
I hope you can join us at CIH Housing 2016 to be part of that
This blog was first published in Inside Housing on 24
24 June 2016