The RTPI’s 16 ways to address the housing crisis

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) revealed their 16 point action plan to help the government tackle the housing crisis and achieve its ambitious targets.

The RTPI’s Chief Executive Trudi Elliot has written to Gavin Barwell, the UK Minister for Planning and Housing ahead of the release of the Housing White Paper for England.

The Chief Executive wrote:

“The major house builders alone cannot be expected to deliver all the homes we need. In addition, changes to the English planning system over the last 30 years have failed to deliver the homes we need.”

The Chief Executive went on to say that there wouldn’t be a quick fix and there needed to be a comprehensive package of suggestions from the Prime Minister.

Do you have an opinion about the housing crisis?

Take a quick look at the 16 point action plan headlines from the published document. Get active on Twitter, follow #RTPI16ways and join the debate.

The published document by the RTPI contains the following…

1. Offer ready permitted sites to SME builders.

Support them in the new industrial strategy. We need to get them building again.

2. Keep Housing Associations building.

Housing Associations need to keep building homes and they need to be supported.

3. Let Local Authorities charge the planning fees they need.

The RTPI states that Planning departments have suffered greater cuts than other local authority functions, and indicate it has to stop and be reversed.

4. Require a city region wanting a devolution deal to have a plan for housing.

Create funding to have a plan to deliver the supporting homes required by those jobs.

5. Make Land Registry an open data organisation.

To allow strategically planned houses the RTPI says that they need data on who owns the land and where.

6. Create a fiscal regime that encourages ‘Build to Rent’.

As a nation there is a failure  to supply purpose-built properties to rent with longer term security.

7. Government must provide stronger direction on suitable land for housing.

Brownfield land should be made to achieve its full potential. They suggest that communities should be involved in places which are undergoing regeneration.

8. Encourage innovation in climate change mitigation.

The RTPI suggest that there is a need for mechanisms to improve the energy efficiency of the existing housing stock, and policies which ensure that new homes are compliant with carbon reduction targets.

9. Make more of the existing housing stock.

Pay attention to how the rental market and structure, and how taxation and housing benefit policy drives behaviours and the market.

10. Find innovative ways of funding affordable housing.

The RTPI suggest that we must learn the lessons from the 2008 financial crisis and cannot let the challenges that major house builders face in a downturn result in whole developments being stalled.

11. Invest in the next generation of those who will make housing happen.

Government has backed the RTPI’s planner’s bursary scheme; they states that we need to make working in the built and natural environment open and inspiring to all.

12. Get the public sector building.

The LGA and the Federation of Master builders have already stepped up and said they are up for it. Cleverly used the RTPI suggest that it can create markets and support private sector provision.

13. Align transport infrastructure and housing delivery more effectively.

Start by assessing infrastructure projects for the development land they unlock, not just their impact on speed and congestion.

14. Allow Planning Inspectors to find local plans partially sound.

The RTPI suggest that we should not  let problems with one small policy area hold up a Local Plan having the weight it needs in steering where homes go.

15. Encourage local authorities to be proactive in land assembly.

To unblock land for homes as well as wider socially and economically beneficial development.

16. Intervene in the land market and capture the benefits from transport investment.

In the longer term we need to explore the operation of the land market, an issue explored by the House of Lords in their report on the economics of housing.

Here is a summary of the statement.

  • Make brownfield land achieve its full potential. Brownfield land continues to play an important role for providing housing, but the RTPI says that:

A brownfield firstpolicy will fail to deliver its full potential if there is insufficient available funding for the treatment and assembly of land.”

  • Involve communities in regeneration. Increasing housing densities within existing town and cities may be a way to provide new housing. Development of increasing density needs to be of high quality and supported by infrastructure and facilities including sufficient open space. The RTPI advocates real community consultation on these proposals.

    We would support consultation where this is focused upon delivering change and new development – rather than is so often the issue that engagement only effectively takes place to prevent development.

  • Land within existing built up areas will not meet all our needs. The RTPI accept that one of the future housing needs will have to be met on greenfield land around our towns and cities.

The experience of our members clearly indicates that this can be done without undermining the priority to be given to brownfield sites through a planned, managed and phased approach to development.”

  • Make green belts work for everybody. Green Belt policy has been championed by the planning profession for over 60 years, however, its current role and function needs to be revisited if locations for housing are to be identified.  We would support this statement:

Green belt boundaries may well need to change, but only through careful reviews over wider areas than single local authorities, and where safeguards are put in place to ensure that development is sustainable, affordable and delivered in a timely manner, and without prejudice to the renewal of brownfield land.”

  • Better planning, not less planning. The RTPI has called for less intervention in the planning system. It has called for greater support to be given to local authorities who have worked in partnership to deliver those homes. Effective strategic planning is needed to address the housing crisis rather than put local authorities at risk of their local plans being called in.

The RTPI concludes that Planners have the skills to do the job, working in partnership with politicians and communities

In summary, in our view the main problem in planning is the over focus upon localism and lack of focus upon regional/strategic planning to ensure the difficult (but necessary) decisions are undertaken within local communities to provide the much-needed housing that this country requires. Without this additional focus – and political will – the system will continue to operate at less that it’s full potential.

Further reading about this topic:

Where should we build new homes? RTPI Policy Statement on identifying new housing development opportunities. Click here to read more (PDF).

About the RTPI

The Royal Town Planning Institute is the UK’s leading planning body for spatial, sustainable and inclusive planning and is the largest planning institute in Europe with over 23,000 members. It is an organisation and chartered institute responsible for maintaining professional standards and accrediting world class planning courses nationally and internationally.

A charity whose charitable purpose is to advance the science and art of planning (including town and country and spatial planning) for benefit of the public. A Learned society.

Find out more here.

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