Architects design a solution to housing problems

Could the RIBA plan solve the housing crisis?
Could the RIBA plan solve the housing crisis?
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Architects have put their heads together to come up with a plan to solve the housing crisis. Sharon Dale reports.

The future of housebuilding post-Brexit is uncertain but all the signs point to a slow down thanks to anxiety surrounding the economy.

A decline in new developments will dent government targets to build 200,000 new homes each year. It will also lead to the loss of work in an industry that supports a quarter of a million jobs and is worth around £30bn to the economy annually.

While we wait for the Autumn statement to hear what new housing minister Gavin Barwell and Chancellor Philip Hammond have in store to boost construction and help the housing crisis, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the National Housing Federation have come up with some suggestions. NHF chief executive David Orr, has called on the government to use some of the £7bn set aside for discounted starter homes and shared ownership schemes to build affordable homes to rent or buy.

The RIBA has gone even further, setting out a detailed 20 point plan to keep Britain building and improve the design quality of new homes.The policy document, Housing matters: 20 20 ways to tackle the housing crisis, advocates better use of public sector land, more locally-made decisions and greater focus on good design. Here are some of the RIBA’s key points:

*The cap on Housing Revenue Account receipts should be lifted to allow councils to borrow to build social housing.

*Central and local government should set up public sector investment vehicles and a national housing investment bank to issue bonds and ISAs, recycle right to buy receipts and attract long-term institutional investment.

*Local authorities should set up Local Housing Development Funds, with initial capital for investment provided by local authority pension funds. Once such schemes are up and running, they would be able attract secondary institutional investment

*Local leaders should be empowered to shape their local housing market by taking control over requirements for affordable housing based on local housing need, rather than national targets.

*Sufficient resources must be made available to identify land for custom builders.

*The government should ensure Design Review Panels are an integral part of the planning process.

*Key factors that affect quality of life and affordability of housing, like space, access and environmental standards, should be subject to regular review to ensure that the highest possible standards are adopted.

*The value of social return should be given equal consideration to economic return and the long-term impact of a proposal on the public sector should be taken into account to ensure that inappropriate development is avoided.

*Local authorities should consider partnering arrangements where land and ownership is retained by the authority, possibly in the form of Community Land Trusts, to ensure long-term best value for those assets.

*The removal of stamp duty when moving to a smaller home should be piloted in the Autumn Statement.

*A distinct planning use class should be introduced for housing for older people that is designed to Housing our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation (HAPPI) principles. Local authorities should be required to address the principles of inclusive design and the needs of older people in plan-making and land allocation.

*Research into concerns around viability, build quality and overheating should be commissioned to help guide future standards.

*The metrics currently used to calculate energy efficiency and CO2 reduction should be reviewed; learning from other European countries such as Germany and Denmark.

*A VAT rebate scheme should be made available for the renovation and improvement of homes with poor energy efficiency.

*The Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill should be amended to ensure that viability assessments used in Section 106/CIL discussions are public documents – with no commercial confidentiality restrictions.