Headlines: July 17th, 2008

Councils are being given back their central role as housing providers in a series of measures to increase the number of available homes. As a first step four Local Housing Companies have been announced and will see local authorities working with the private sector.

The four Companies will be in Barking and Dagenham, Newcastle, Nottingham, and Manchester. The partnerships between the councils and private enterprise will see the local authorities putting forward their surplus land to a Local Housing Company and playing a full role in agreeing any new developments. Schemes will have to include at least 50 per cent affordable homes. In return, the private sector partners will provide the equivalent investment and the skills needed to build the houses.

There are also new plans to work with councils and housing associations on proposals for mortgage rescue schemes and the part they might play in supporting home owners. Proposals to deliver up to 75,000 homes in twenty more towns and cities will mean that those local authorities that have pledged to increase the number of properties in their areas by up to 20 per cent will be designated as New Growth Points.

A hundred million pounds is being given to those areas for schools, hospitals and other facilities. The package of measures also includes allocating the first wave of the 510 million pound pot to reward councils that bring land forward for development, giving the construction industry greater certainty that suitable land will be available for building when the housing market picks up.

The Housing Minister, Caroline Flint said, the measures would help people facing difficulties now and put in place plans to help meet longer-term needs. “That means being ambitious, but also practical and realistic, acknowledging not only the difficulties faced by individuals and families, but also for those who work in the house building industry,” she said.