Archives for posts with tag: Public sector

Its message: the greatest need is for affordable rented housing in urban areas. Any solution to Britain’s housing crisis must include a bigger contribution from the public sector. Rather than coercive measures, the focus should be on enabling local authorities and housing associations that wish to build social housing.

Shame is poured on George Osborne’s ‘massive’ reduction of Housing Associations’ capability to invest in new housing with a 1% rent reduction per annum for 5 years: “Social housing rents are already at a large discount to private landlord rents, so this ill-advised move in one go, reduced the capital raising capability of Housing Associations”.

The FT thinks that local authorities should be allowed to:

  • set planning fees,
  • to levy taxes on idle land when developers fail to use planning permissions
  • and, crucially, to borrow in order to fund their own social housing developments.

There is a great deal that can still be done by making better use of brownfield sites and releasing public land for development. An annual tax should be levied on undeveloped land that has residential planning permission but has not been developed whether publicly-owned, or land owned privately, by companies, NGOs or agencies.

Mixed developments are being built, income from sales invested in social housing

At the end of March, Birmingham’s council newsletter reported on the completion of 251 ‘quality’ homes in Erdington. There is a mixture of social housing and houses for sale, for a range of family sizes – from one to five bedroom properties.  The income gained from houses sold from this latest development will be reinvested into the council’s housing stock of social housing. News of other social and affordable new housing in the city may be read here. Today we are reminded that a four year programme has been set up to enlist smaller housebuilders to use smaller plots of land.

Birmingham City Council won Social Housing Provider of the Year’ at the Insider Residential Property Awards in 2016. This highlighted the work of the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT, currently the largest provider of affordable homes per annum in the Midlands with projects in Nechells, Sutton Coldfield and Ladywood. In 2015, BMHT also won the Public Sector Award at the Urban Design Awards for its Newtown redevelopment (See architect Joe Holyoak’s article – one photo above.).

BMHT celebrated the completion of its 2,000 home milestone in March – a culmination of 1,125 homes built for rent and almost 900 built for sale since the council launched the BMHT programme.  The council plans to build around 1,800 further new homes for rent and market sale between now and 2020 in order to close the city’s housing gap.

 

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Simon Baddeley, whose work for Handsworth allotments and views on city transport issues have been noted on this website, writes:

“Something awful is happening to the public sector. The role of the state in protecting the public good is being relentlessly diminished in front of our eyes – like the slow melting of the polar areas that so many deny.

“We don’t recognise the form of this slow motion disaster and being too literal about what is happening can label us as alarmist even paranoid.

“The blighting of democracy and especially local democracy works on the principle of death by an infinite progression of cuts against which it can be almost impossible to take a moral stand.

“Yet what is happening is profoundly immoral – the result of political decisions.

“The only growth is that in the chasm between the very rich and the growing poor; the growth industries are soup kitchens and billionaires.

“For its lack of transparency and lack of democratic control we have a ’new feudalism’ with a new dominant elite belonging to no specific community or nation, paying little or no tax and feeling (with honourable exceptions) no obligation nor attachment to any locality.

There are now 1293 imposed duties placed upon Local Authorities by central government, half of which have been imposed in the last 15 years leading – despite talk of a Big Society to a diminishing scope for localism and local initiatives.

“Section 5 of the Localism Act gives the Secretary of State powers to remove obstacles to the General Power of Competence but the act contains 140 reserve powers which can be used against LAs.

“We can see where the formal power resides. I speak as one long involved in local voluntary activity who will continue to do this so long as my health remains – but the world is becoming a nastier place and this is because that’s the way a small minority of unaccountable free-floating billionaires want it to be – supported by generously funded free market think tanks producing ‘objective’ proofs that how things are is how things ought to be.”