We’re calling for the following from policymakers:
1. Minimum density for a sustainable housing future
To achieve higher densities that are sustainable and protect our environment as far as possible, minimum rather than maximum building density targets should be stipulated within planning frameworks across local authorities based on their need and what is appropriate for the local area.
2. Fit-for-purpose funding for brownfield building outside London
The system of funding housing zones outside London needs review and reform. For local authorities outside London, there is no non-recoverable grant funding (which is possible with GLA funds), and this is likely to put other local authorities off, based on our qualitative insights. Fundamentally, local authorities outside London will need even more government support to develop brownfield sites. In London, the strong property market makes it more financially viable to develop difficult sites. Outside London, local authorities are more likely to need direct grant funding for site assembly, site remediation and infrastructure. This funding should be part of a comprehensive policy of supporting densification and the regeneration of not only urban cores but towns and cities as a whole.
3. Empowered decision-makers
Planning committees in areas of housing shortages and high needs must be better informed and regulated. These are the bodies that make the ultimate decisions, and yet they may have limited understanding of the bigger picture challenges relating to housing shortage and the alternatives to meeting the need sustainably.
4. Relaxed change of usage class
Relaxing (within reason) change of usage class policies should be considered in areas of high housing need. This needs to be done sensitively to ensure former commercial premises offer desirable and attractive places to live, and with caution to ensure employment opportunities are not constrained as an unintended consequence.
5. Rental market reform
Unlike our European neighbours, in the UK we do not have any kind of system that allows for long-term renting – an issue that Shelter and other organisations have long been campaigning on. As home ownership becomes an increasingly distant dream for people, this must be re-examined to allow people to invest in the communities and spaces around them.
6. Empowered educational institutions
Universities have been proven to be a key element in creating successful cities. They are sources of young people with great economic potential, many of whom choose to stay on in the city after they graduate. Universities are also a major housing provider through halls of residence – so why not extend this beyond the student body to their alumni? Educational institutions could be given powers to act like housing associations, providing incentives for their graduates – many of whom will struggle to find affordable renting options – to stay on in structures designed with density in mind.
7. An independent commission
While central government has a crucial role to play in determining the future
direction of housing policy, political consensus is essential to bring about meaningful change in the way that policy makers and planning officers think about how best to meet future housing needs. To help achieve this, we’re calling for the creation of an independent commission on urban density. The formal and exhaustive process of a commission, which will include taking evidence from interested parties and members of the public, will help to ensure that future policy is focused not only on increasing housing stock but also creating dynamic and vibrant communities.