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Without collaboration there may never be change for disabled people

With Government planning to build 300,000 homes a year, Councillor David Renard, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association (LGA), fears there will be no real progress for our disabled and older population on the housing front unless councils and central Government learn how to collaborate with each other to ensure a good proportion of these homes are accessible.

Councils share the collective national ambition to tackle the country’s housing shortage and are committed to building high-quality, affordable homes with the necessary infrastructure.

As house builders, housing enablers, and landlords; as planners, place-shapers, and agents of growth, transport and infrastructure; as responsible guardians to the vulnerable and the homeless; and as democratically accountable to communities – local government is at the heart of the housing solution. However, our goals can only be achieved with strong national and local leaders working together.

Government target

The Government has set a national target of building 300,000 homes a year. The last time this country built at least 250,000 homes a year, councils delivered more than 40% of them, but as we said in our report, Building post-pandemic prosperity, late last year, the pandemic has made it harder to deliver new housing.

Over 100,000 fewer new homes, across all tenures, will be built by 2023 than would have been built if not for COVID-19.

Although rates of construction are picking up as we move to recovery, this backlog is unlikely to be cleared until 2025 or beyond; this is at a time when almost 8 million people in England are estimated to have some form of housing need.

the projected demand for supported housing in England is set to grow by 125,000 by 2030 and at present, we have more than 1.1 million homes since 2010 that have had planning permission granted, but are yet to be built.

A bold approach

A local, plan-led system is crucial for our levelling-up ambitions to ensure councils can deliver the right types of homes in the right places with appropriate infrastructure. Councils must be empowered to incentivise developers to bring allocated sites forward without delay.

Long-term, we would like to see reform to the Right to Buy scheme to allow councils to retain 100% of payments so that more can be invested in new homes, and discounts can be set locally.

The LGA has also long called for the removal of permitted development rights, under which full planning permission is not required and certain requirements, such as the need to provide affordable housing, can be ignored.

Time to Level Up

Quite often, councils include a policy in their Local Plan requiring that a proportion of new homes meet certain accessibility standards. However, permitted developments are not subject to Local Plan policies, meaning that less homes are delivered to these standards.

However, in the Levelling Up White Paper, it was positive to see steps taken to address the quality and security of housing, particularly for older people.

The Government announced a task force that will work alongside other departments, housing providers, developers, and older people, with appropriate links being made to the housing commitments in the Adult Social Care Reform White Paper.

Alongside this, at least £300 million has been committed over the next three years in the Adult Social Care Reform White Paper to embed the strategic commitment in all local places to connect housing with health and care, and drive the stock of new supported housing.

A further £570 million per year was made available to provide delivery of the Disabled Facilities Grant, something the LGA fully supports.

Collaborating for change

The LGA, councils and housing associations would like to work with government to ensure there is sustainable funding to continue investment in the development of housing for people with a range of needs.

Councils want all tenants to be able to live in safe and secure, high-quality housing.

To turn this ambition into a reality, the Government needs to ensure councils have the ability to establish landlord licensing schemes and appropriate tools and resources to support the enforcement of housing quality.

We must all work together to tackle this issue, otherwise, I fear no real progress will be made for our disabled and older population.

Visit Habinteg’s policy and research page to find out how we work with central, regional and local government to support the development of inclusive policy and good practice: https://www.habinteg.org.uk/policy-and-research

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