Friday, July 20, 2007

JRF Report – Transforming Places

Gordon Brown’s decision to include a housing minister in his cabinet gives a strong indication that housing will be a key component of the “new challenges” facing his government. Yet Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, David Orr, has issued a clear reminder that there is nothing new about the current housing problem facing Gordon Brown’s government. Speaking at yesterday’s thuRSdAy debate entitled “Is our obsession with home ownership bad for Britain?", Mr Orr commented that senior figures within the housing sector had been warning both Labour and Conservative governments about the developing problem since 1995.

Discussing both the need to change public attitudes towards the relative values of home ownership and renting, as well as the need to build more quality affordable homes, Mr Orr argued that the estimated 1.6 million households in Britain currently on council and housing association waiting lists illustrated an institutionalised lack of housing supply. He also discussed the way in which private housing development currently operates, pointing towards larges amounts of land that is owned by private property developers and has been granted planning permission, but is intentionally left undeveloped for long periods to ensure housing demand remains as high as possible.

Mr Orr also made reference to the recent report by the
Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which looked at neighbourhood housing markets throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, and found that “new social housing appears more positive than negative in its direct effects on price level and change, particularly at local authority level” and that “new social housing tends to have a positive effect on new private building”.

The issue of how to go about building new affordable good quality homes was addressed by Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich who discussed the need to “incentivise planning” by following the example set by countries such as Germany and Switzerland, in which local communities welcome the building of new homes in their area because the taxes generated by more people living there means more funding to improve public services and potentially even a lower rate of tax in the area. He also argued that residents should be more involved in the planning process in their particular area. Particularly in more rural areas, he suggested that communities would be more receptive to and able to see the benefits of a project to build a hundred more homes in their town or village, rather than a central government dictate to build 250,000 more homes across a particular region.

A copy of the full Joseph Rowntree Foundation report "Transforming Places" is available to download.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has also recently launched a new initiative looking at “social evils” with a lecture at the RSA entitled “What are the 21st Century's Social Evils?".

Both of the RSA Lectures mentioned above will soon be available to download as Audio Files here.

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