An end to top down housing targets welcomed

By on 13/07/2010 in News

Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor John Lines welcomes an end to government imposed housing targets.

Localisation is well and truly here thanks to the bold moves of an audacious Tory- Liberal Democrat government- and not a day too soon.

Common sense has won the day and I very much welcome Communities Secretary Eric Pickles' move to scrap centrally imposed regional spatial strategies.

Given the impact of the recession, uncertainties about future recovery and a collapse in land and property prices, Labour's extremely ambitious demands for local authorities to build 3 million new homes by 2026 were unlikely to become a reality in any case- there was never any money!

Here in Birmingham we recognised early on that innovative measures were required to overcome the challenging economic climate. We understood the risks that developers have to take up front - borrowing money to buy land to build, finding the costs at risk for planning and design - and these are big risks in the current market.

We worked closely with developers and offered them incentives to defy the recession based on a long term profit sharing arrangement and it’s worked.

This year saw us start construction on 293 new council homes alone through the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust. The homes are for social rent and outright sale, providing recession-busting solutions in financially difficult times, all whilst safeguarding jobs in construction.

What is required is innovative thinking, not targets. We built more affordable homes than the government housing targets set for Birmingham. We didn't put our feet up once we'd managed to put the tick in the box, we just kept going! It just goes to show that government targets mean very little to an ambitious council.

The truth of the matter is that local authorities are perfectly capable of taking responsibility for building homes themselves, as the Conservatives have long recognised.

Now that the power has been shifted back into the hands of individuals, communities and councils, I look forward to working with my fellow Brummies, alongside Registered Social Landlords and our construction partners, to develop homes and communities together.

I welcome also, the fact that our local people will finally be free to have a say in deciding how many sites should be made available for Gypsies and Travellers, and where they should be. 

This has been a contentious topic in Birmingham, as I'm sure it has in other parts of the country, but finally the opportunity will be here to consider how we want to do things rather then being ordered by bureaucrats from London how to handle local affairs.

Local authorities should join me in rejoicing that we have finally been freed from Labour's apron strings.

It has taken a Conservative – Liberal Democrat government to realise that endless tick-box exercises do not get the best outcome for local people. Local people working hand in hand with their democratically elected local authorities, however, will deliver real results.

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