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A long-term way forward for the country's housing needs.

Byline: Kevan Carrick

the Lyons Housing Review, a Commission set up by Labour leader Ed Miliband, last week announced a well thought through, long-term plan for housing which should be considered by all political parties.

It makes a number of recommendations that if implemented by a future govern ment will make a real difference to meeting housing need across the UK.

The RICS has particularly welcomed proposals for Housing Growth Areas, mandatory Local Plans and Olympic-style New Homes Corporations. They mirror recommendations made in the RICS Property in Politics report, the subject of this column on September 24, which was based on the views of more than 700 RICS members and firms across the country.

The Lyons Review refers to two reasons why we are not building enough housing. The first is a shortage of land, the second, is a shrunken capacity to build. I would add a third - shortage of funding.

It is widely acknowledged that the public purse cannot fund the supply of social and affordable housing. Equally, we cannot just leave the problem to market forces. The private investment sector needs to be attracted back into the market.

I have made the point previously that we must not allow housing to become 'a pawn of politicians' as it was in the last few decades. While there clearly are unscrupu lous landlords and protection is needed from those who through greed and avarice tarnish the reputation of the much larger group of professionals in the private rented sector, I feel the measures proposed by Ed Miliband are too blunt. We need a more careful and structured approach to be effective in protecting the disadvantaged and still encourage the private sector to invest to the degree that is necessary.

Returning to the recommendations in the Lyons report, the Labour Party is right to talk of empowering local communities to build much-needed homes in the places people want to live. This can become a reality through resourcing Local Authority planning departments to support neigh bourhood planning, also called for by RICS in Property in Politics.

As a neighbourhood independent examiner, I have heard of only a handful of Neighbourhood Plans in the North East region, yet they abound in the South East where the market is much more strident.

A key recommendation of Lyons is for mandatory Local Plans. But this needs to be combined with Olympic-style delivery New Homes Corporations (the RICS recommendations call them 'Develop ment Delivery Units') to fast-track the delivery of housing, regeneration and infrastructure projects in specific areas.

The RICS goes on to recommend that the Labour Party make 'Housing Growth Areas' specific to a particular type of housing and follow proposals for Housing Zones that encourage New Build, Retrofit or Affordable development with financial incentives in each category to promote mixed use housing delivery to meet local needs.

Whilst Labour's plans to reserve a proportion of the homes built for first time buyers from the local area is sensible there is still a need to deliver homes across all tenures. Incentivising private land owners to release land alongside freeing up public land will support land supply. Garden Cities, the subject for much debate, are not the silver bullet that many assumed but they will play a key role. This includes a quality in design and sustainability being brought through into the delivery of new homes.

Overall my profession, through the RICS, welcomes the Lyons Housing Review but we need a multiplicity of actions in a long-term budgeted and resourced plan to meet the challenge. It almost goes without saying that this would be most achievable with cross-party agreement.

Kevan Carrick is a partner at JK Property Consultants LLP, the policy spokesman for RICS North East and a mediator and Chairman of Northern Dispute Resolution.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 22, 2014
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