A radical new housing policy is needed that must be fit for purpose in a post-Covid environment and address climate change, health and inequality.
Paula Hewitt, the new President of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) also warned against imposing formula-driven targets on local authorities.
ADEPT’s new Housing Policy Position launched at the ADEPT Spring Seminar today, sets out the Association’s priorities for what that new strategy should look like.
Both Covid and successive lockdowns have highlighted how health and housing are inextricably linked. Not only that, the future of social care depends on people being able to stay in their homes longer, which means good quality housing designed to enable continued accessibility as people age.
More young people than ever are locked out of the housing market. Yet there is currently planning permission for more than one million new homes that are still to be started, because big developers can hold onto land and control the build-out rate. ADEPT would like to see changes that encourage more competition and allows greater diversity of providers.
ADEPT also wants to see a complete removal of borrowing restrictions to enable local authorities to build many morenew homes for social rent at genuinely affordable levels to meet local needs. With around 4.7 m private rented households currently paying more than a third of their income in rent1, the UK has an acute affordability crisis. Over 98,300 families are living in temporary accommodation, including more than 127,000 children.2
A new national housing policy must not create volume at the expense of quality. Achieving 300,000 new homes a year requires a holistic approach that balances social, economic and environmental needs. Homes must be fit for the future, with zero carbon new builds and existing homes retrofitted to high standards of energy efficiency. The pandemic has highlighted that access to green space is vital. These actions are essential if the UK is to meet the new target of reducing carbon emissions by 78% by 2035.
ADEPT’s new president, Paula Hewitt, is the Deputy Chief Executive, Lead Director for Economic and Community Infrastructure and also the Director of Commissioning at Somerset County Council. She takes over from Nigel Riglar, Director for Environment and Community Services, South Gloucestershire Council.
Paula said: “The pandemic has highlighted the health implications and inequalities of housing. Multiple lockdowns have seen large numbers of people having to spend time at home in situations where it is difficult to maintain distance from others, with inadequate space and facilities to learn or work.
“Many have also experienced a significant reduction in income, which is likely to lead to increased mortgage and rent arrears, and to more homelessness. It is therefore vital that local planning authorities are given the scope and tools to provide a housing landscape that is affordable, healthy and sustainable going forwards.”
Paula has a diverse mix of responsibilities including highways and transport, waste, planning, economic development, property, environment, registration services and libraries. She has led a number of high-profile service transformation programmes, delivering innovation and partnerships to secure customer benefits and financial savings. Her achievements include leading the Council’s work in relation to accommodating and securing a legacy from the largest construction project in Western Europe, the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.
Paula continued: “COVID-19 has been an incredibly challenging time, with local authorities having to find different ways of working to minimise disruption to our services – I want to take this opportunity to thank Nigel for steering us through these unchartered waters.”
The ADEPT Housing Policy Position 2021 is available here.