Innovation in council housebuilding: chapter ten

The focus of this report is ‘innovation by local authorities in building council housing’. Our recommendations are, therefore, centred on creating the local conditions necessary to take forward this agenda.


Many of the reports on affordable housing provision and the HRA self-financing system include a proliferation of recommendations for the Government (for example the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the Chartered Institute of Housing (2016), Morphet and Clifford (2017) and the Town and Country Planning Association (2017)). We would not dispute the need for changes on the HRA such as an aggregate increase in the debt cap, or reforms to the right to buy to enable one-to-one replacement through less onerous rules. However, our recommendations are centred principally on councils and also other stakeholders, including their representative bodies. These draw on the evidence from this study.

Recommendations

Councils
  • develop a strategic framework that sets out the role and function of council housebuilding to address local issues
  • ensure there is political commitment
  • emphasise the added value of council housebuilding such as providing training and apprenticeships and helping the local construction supply chain
  • ensure that there is a full understanding of the funding opportunities for council housebuilding
  • promote the exemplar role of council housebuilding in encouraging other developers to ‘up their game’ in terms of quality
  • collaborate with housing associations and developers to address issues such as skills gaps  
  • work with adjoining councils and, where appropriate, combined authorities over joint initiatives on council housebuilding, for example sharing expertise and funding
  • have ‘shovel-ready’ schemes that can be brought forward in response to government funding initiatives  
  • take an active role in debates on the future of council housing by, for example, commenting on the Social Housing Green Paper and participating in other national inquiries.
Housing associations and the National Housing Federation

There are sometimes concerns among housing associations over the promotion of council housebuilding by local authorities, which may be seen as a potential threat to their own activities. This can be overcome by:

  • encouraging a better understanding of the specific role of council housebuilding in each area
  • liaising with councils on issues of mutual interest, such as the role of planning agreements in providing affordable housing for both local authorities and housing associations. 
Housebuilders and the construction industry

Housebuilders and the construction sector have relatively little awareness of council housebuilding, meaning there is a strong case for:

  • encouraging a better understanding of the role of council housebuilding
  • promoting joint working with councils on, for example, tackling construction costs through taking forward recommendations in the ‘Farmer review of the UK construction labour model’, such as investigating modern methods of construction.
Professional organisations

Professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) have an important role in:

  • highlighting to their members the role of council housebuilding through, for instance, publications and events
  • ensuring that members are aware of the skills that are required by councils to have an effective council housebuilding programme.