A think-tank is urging the Government to ensure the proposed new Homes Agency will guide councils in how to make best use of the opportunity to set up Local Housing Companies and to make sure they are in place as quickly as possible. The New Local Government Network says the Housing Green Paper should mean a real incentive for councils to act creatively with their own land and revenue streams.
The NLGN says plans for a Housing and Planning Development Grant will act to encourage councils towards a pro-housing stance and says this is far preferable to a central government dictat but it believes it is important to know how significant that incentive will be, to make it possible to judge how far some councils will be able to resist it.
The NLGN says, “Allowing councils to establish ‘Local Housing Companies’ in joint venture with English Partnerships and the private sector is a clever way to use existing council assets and also spread the risk of new development. We urge the Government to make sure that the new homes agency proactively guides councils in how these new corporate vehicles can get up and running soon.” It also wants councils to modernise their role in the housing market and to recognise that pure tenancy is only one of the options that people want. “Shared ownership and key worker support are ideas that reflect today’s world and clever local authorities should take the new opportunities from this Green Paper and rise to the challenge,” it says.
The NLGN is also stressing the importance of regional policy and calls for the new Single Regional Strategies to tie in more players from across the public sector and says great care needs to be taken during the consultation process to ensure that local authority leaders have a transparent method for signing-off the regional planning components of these documents.