300,000 is the magic number…so how do we reach it?

By Victoria Tomlinson · 7 November 2022

Following the recent changes in government you might be forgiven for losing track of who has ministerial responsibility for Housing. Rishi Sunak has confirmed the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP is back in post as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. It should be noted he also holds the position of Minister for Intergovernmental Relations so let’s hope he doesn’t get side tracked with that!

If you are a supporter of targets, you will be pleased to know that Gove has confirmed the government still intends to retain its manifesto target of building 300,000 homes a year.  However, he didn’t commit to the government meeting this target saying this was “going to be made more difficult because of the economic circumstances that we face.”  He went on to say: “The cost of materials has increased because of the problems with global supply chains, and also a very tight labour market means that the capacity to build those homes at the rate we want is constrained.”

In addition to confirming that the target will remain, Gove implied he was intending to reform and review the system for forming local housing targets. He advised that some form of central formula for calculating local housing numbers would be retained but no detail was given around what changes may be made to the existing formula.  We know many Local Authorities will be keen to see the detail of any proposed changes, so that they can begin to understand the impact on their current strategies and policies.

Gove also added that new build development would only be allowed with local consent. He said: “We critically need to make sure that we have local communities consenting to development, and that means that homes need to be more beautiful, it means that we need infrastructure alongside them. But it critically also means that we need to make sure that the environment is protected as well.”

So how do we manage all of these competing priorities in an environment of increasing costs?  Here are some of our thoughts:

  • We need to ensure we deliver strong community engagement, encompassing stakeholders as well as local residents and we need to ensure our development teams have the skillsets to deliver.  Putting this work in up front will help to mitigate some of the risk of delays to planning approvals, due to local objections, or at least enable you to identify the objections before they arrive with the planners and give you time to provide solid justifications or counter arguments. 
  • We need to define ‘beautiful’ –  a difficult task when this is such an emotive topic, but perhaps the appearance of homes needs a re-focus as part of community and stakeholder engagement. Let’s not forget the Living with beauty: report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) published in 2020.  How many of us have found the time to review this report in the context of development plans? Are we encouraging our teams to give enough weight to the appearance of new homes?
  • Gove also referenced protecting the environment in his statement but the delays to the Decent Homes Standard review and a lack of clarity over how government will decarbonise the energy infrastructure has resulted in many housing providers delaying plans to launch revised new build specifications.  However, it is clear there has never been a better time for Development and Asset Teams to be working together on research and pilot solutions, to ensure they achieve cohesive approaches.  There have been a number of collaborative approaches or knowledge sharing workshops set up between providers, that development colleagues could engage with, enabling them to consider decarbonisation approaches in the most resource efficient way.  Some are also embedding carbon literacy upskilling within their organisations, as well as for their customers, so that everyone can make informed decisions.  Many of us will also be considering how best to decarbonise our own homes so we are all in this together!

At ARK Consultancy, we work with many housing providers to help them deliver their development plans, formulate new strategies and develop collaborative approaches. If you wish to learn more on this matter or would like to speak to an expert on how we could support your organisation call us today on 0121 515 3831.

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