Kevan Carrick: RICS report recommends housing sector reforms

Last week the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' (RICS) Housing Commission published a report called More Good Homes and a Better United Kingdom

Kevan Carrick
Kevan Carrick

Last week the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) Housing Commission published a report called More Good Homes and a Better United Kingdom. I recommend it to everyone as a good read.

RICS members are working on a daily basis to help plan, finance, build, manage, rent and sell homes. The message from this report is clear. Many are very concerned about the performance and outcomes of the housing market.

The Commission is non-political – its recommendations were made out of concern to address fundamental matters to improve performance in the delivery of housing at a critical time.

This is not self-interest – RICS takes its responsibility to look out for the public good since it received Royal Charter in 1881.

The recommendations seek to depoliticise the sector and counter short-termism to establish an independent, sector-led standing committee to advise Government and opposition parties on issues relating to housing supply in all tenures.

It calls for a Housing Observatory which would inform on research and intelligence from the universities and private sector on housing, planning and infrastructure. A six-monthly meeting of the housing ministers from each administration would explore consistent policies.

The Commission makes other simple but innovative recommendations.

Double the release of public land for residential development to overcome the challenge of finding land for new homes, with a published audit of the land and property in public ownership, on a “pay as you go” basis, the price paid dependent upon sales.

A condition should provide that 33% of developed homes be for subsidised housing.

Planning consents should include a “best endeavours” provision to commence construction within three years, including an obligation to sell the site to a party willing and able to commence development within the same period.

It also recommends a new planning class for “affordable rented housing” at 80% market rent for at least 15 years and then sold or let in the open market.

The report also tackles welfare reform measures. Under-occupation penalties should not apply where affected tenants are unlikely to secure another home in the same “travel to work” area.

Right to Buy reduces the supply of affordable homes and good tenants should be encouraged with a portable home ownership discount.

A deferred loan fund is suggested to encourage the over-70s to undertake energy efficiency while the over-65s would be encouraged to downsize with an exemption from stamp duty land tax.

Other recommendations are; finance for subsidised homes, alignment of Government policy, certainty on the rent formula for the next 15 years to attract private investment, raising money through council tax, and allowing self-invested pension schemes to invest in newly-developed housing.

The RICS report looks for effective ways of encouraging the private sector to invest in housing. It’s the only way we are going to improve our housing stock in times of public sector austerity and the North East would do well to take it on board to help tackle our housing issues.

:: Kevan Carrick is a partner at JK Property Consultants LLP, the policy spokesman for RICS North East, and member of both G9 and the NE LEP Investment Fund Panel

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