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RIBA: 20 Ways to tackle The UK’s Housing Crisis

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has today set out its key recommendations for dealing with the UK’s dire housing crisis. With a new government and the leave result of the EU referendum, it’s more vital than ever to ensure design quality isn’t comprised as we ramp up the construction industry to keep Britain’s economy growing and build much needed new homes. The new policy document, ‘Housing Matters: #20ways to tackle the housing crisis’, advocates better use of public resources and public sector land, more locally-made decisions, greater focus on good design, increased support for new types of housing development, sustainable and resilient homes and a more transparent housing market.

The #20ways, which are explained more fully in the policy document, are:

  1. Housing policy should be added to the remit of the National Infrastructure Commissionand future infrastructure schemes should include details of their impact on housing supply.
  2. The Government should adopt the RIBA and House of Lords’ Select Committee recommendation for the establishment of a Chief Built Environment Adviser.
  3. The cap on Housing Revenue Account receipts should be liftedto allow councils to borrow to build social housing.
  4. Central and local government should set up public sector investment vehicles and a national housing investmentbank to issue bonds and ISAs, recycle right to buy receipts and attract long-term institutional investment.
  5. Local authorities should set up Local Housing Development Funds, with initial capital for investment provided by local authority pension funds. Once such schemes are up and running, they would be able attract secondary institutional investment.
  6. Local leaders should be empowered to shape their local housing market bytaking control over requirements for affordable housing, including the tenure composition for new developments (affordable rent, social rent, living rent, shared ownership, Starter Homes) based on local housing need, rather than fixed national targets.
  7. The Guiding Principles of the Estates Regeneration programme should be strengthenedto ensure that engagement with local communities is at the heart of the process and the rights of existing residents to remain after regeneration is complete– including those who exercised the right to buy – is protected.
  8. Sufficient resources must be made available to identify land and for the management and promotion of the custom build register.
  9. The Government should ensure Design Review Panels are an integral part of the planning process– particularly for larger and more complex schemes.
  10. Local and neighbourhood plansshould include design review to help drive high quality design in new housing developments.
  11. Key factors that affect quality of life and affordability of housing like space, access and environmental standards should be subject to regular reviewto ensure that the highest possible standards are adopted.
  12. The value of social return should be given equal consideration to economic returnand the long-term impact of a proposal on the public sector should be taken into account to ensure that inappropriate development is avoided.
  13. Local authorities should consider partnering arrangements where land and ownership is retained by the authority, possibly in the form of Community Land Trusts, to ensure long-term best value for those assets.
  14. The removal of stamp duty when moving to a smaller home should be piloted in the Autumn Statement.
  15. A distinct, clear planning use class should be introduced for housing for older peoplethat is designed to Housing our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation (HAPPI) principles.
  16. Local authorities should be required to address the principles of inclusive design in internal and external environmentsand the needs of older people in plan-making and land allocation.
  17. Research into concerns around viability, build quality and overheating should be commissionedto help guide future standards.
  18. The metrics currently used to calculate energy efficiency and CO2 reduction should be reviewed; learning from other European countries such as Germany and Denmark.
  19. VAT rebate scheme should be made available for the renovation and improvement of homes with poor energy efficiency.
  20. The Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill should be amended to ensure that viability assessments used in Section 106/CIL discussions are public documents– with no commercial confidentiality restrictions.

RIBA President Jane Duncan said:

“The actions we’ve set out are achievable and realistic steps the government can take now to tackle the housing crisis. Everyone has the right to live in a well-designed, sustainable, affordable home – we must work together to realise new solutions to make this a reality for the majority, not just the wealthy few. High quality design that offers better value for money in the long term is a key solution. Without better spending, the homes we build now will not be built to last and are simply storing up further challenges for the future.”

Alex Ely from RIBA’s Housing Group said:

“Demand for new homes continues to outstrip supply and successive governments have failed to keep up. In particular, there is a huge shortage of genuinely affordable new homes to buy or rent in many parts of the country. Housing policy alone won’t be enough to solve a housing crisis with roots that are as complex as they are varied. The only solution lies in bringing together the public and private sector to promote, enable and finance new homes, and improve the quality of the homes we already have and are already building.”

Housing Matters: #20ways to tackle the housing crisis can be found here: