Councils urged to build
The government has signalled a renewed role for local authorities in building homes.
Housing minister Yvette Cooper this week told Inside Housing that councils should take a lead in ramping up house building numbers.
‘We badly need more affordable housing, and we need more ways to build the new homes the nation needs. Councils need to be able to start building again,' she said. ‘No one wants a return to building the big monolithic council estates of the past. But it is time for local councils to play a stronger role with housing associations and developers to build mixed communities for the future.'
Ms Cooper's call is the clearest signal yet that a government under Gordon Brown will make the supply of affordable homes a priority, a point the chancellor stressed last month.
The moves comes as a poll commissioned by Labour deputy leadership candidate Jon Cruddas revealed that 54 per cent of party members said affordable housing should top Labour's policy agenda.
The YouGov poll ranked education – the priority under outgoing prime minister Tony Blair's tenure – second place with 49 per cent of the vote.
Although Mr Cruddas has not backed any of the party leadership candidates, Ms Cooper is known as a Brownite.
The former home secretary Charles Clarke has also this month called for local authorities to lead large-scale house building programmes (Inside Housing, 4 May).
Simon Dow, chief executive of the Guinness Partnership, warned that councils considering house building should work with the housing associations that have traditionally developed affordable homes.
‘Kate Barker reported on what is a huge problem in the supply of affordable housing, saying that there's at least one million who want to access affordable housing but can't and that's likely to get worse,' he said.
‘It's therefore very important for all organisations to work together and not to be territorial over who produces new homes when the reality is that demand is so huge.'
But David Woods, director of housing at Barking & Dagenham Council, said Ms Cooper's pledge did not go far enough. ‘I welcome any move by the government for councils to build more homes for the future, but she only talks about putting in their own resources like land and talks about bidding for Housing Corporation funding. But there are a huge number of local authorities in the country with a lack of debt or negative subsidy.'