Archive for the 'housing' Category

How to build houses AND save the countryside

How to build houses and save the countryside [FC]On 5th March the UK Government announced a major overhaul of the National Planning Policy Framework, stating that it will “deliver the homes the country needs”. Shaun Spiers, author of How to build houses and save the countryside, out today, argues that although well intentioned, the measures don’t go far enough.

There was much to admire in the prime minister’s recent speech on housing. Theresa May called homelessness in our rich country “a source of national shame” and she is right. She pledged to increase house building, but to do so without “destroying the country we love”. And she attacked big developers for gaming the system and putting dividends and executive pay before building more homes. As I read the speech, I mentally ticked off many of the arguments in my new book, How to build houses and save the countryside.

As a country, we have managed to pull off the difficult trick of building too few homes while losing too much countryside. Unfortunately, however, the policy changes announced by the PM are unlikely to change this. They are well-intentioned, but they do not go far enough. How can we do better?

For years, debates on housing and planning have been largely shaped by free market think-tanks arguing for planning liberalisation: ‘Free up the Green Belt, let builders build, and the houses will come.’ Much of my time as chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) from 2004 to 2017 was spent reacting to some half-baked report from Policy Exchange or the Adam Smith Institute (Alan Bennett’s ‘Adam Smith Institute for the Criminally Insane’). As Keynes almost said, ‘madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some think-tank scribbler of a few years back’.

“the principal cause of our failure to build enough new homes is not planning restrictions, but the fact that the state more or less stopped building houses 40 years ago.”

The anti-planning think-tanks have succeeded in weakening the planning system, but successive reforms over the last 15 years have had little impact on housing supply. This is because the principal cause of our failure to build enough new homes is not planning restrictions, but the fact that the state more or less stopped building houses 40 years ago. It is extraordinary that so many clever people could look at our failure to build enough homes and conclude that planning, rather than the collapse in council house building, must be to blame.

The advocates of planning liberalisation ignor the fact that for 30 years after the Second World War, when more than 200,000 homes were built every year in the UK, local authorities built at least 100,000 of them. Between 1951 and 1979, 48% of new homes were built for social rent. After 1979, local authorities virtually ceased to build and neither the private nor housing association sectors increased their output enough to make up the shortfall. Thus the housing crisis.

“Where the planning system can be blamed for our failure to build enough houses is in its failure to control rising land prices. This is down to its weakness: what is needed is more planning, not less.”

Where the planning system can be blamed for our failure to build enough houses is in its failure to control rising land prices. This is down to its weakness: what is needed is more planning, not less. The 1947 planning settlement had two sides. Its role in constraining development is well known and explains why it is under attack in some quarters. But it also ensured a plentiful supply of development land at reasonable prices.

Between 1946 and 1970, work started on 32 new towns; these are now home to 2.76 million people, 4.3% of UK households. It was possible to create new towns because development corporations were given the power to buy land at agricultural prices, using the uplift in value that came with planning permission to fund the development. When work started on developing Milton Keynes, land contributed only around 1% of the cost of a new home. It now accounts for over half the cost of most new homes. The same principle can, of course, be used for sustainable urban extensions.

We must also do much more to use the plentiful supply of previously developed land within towns and cities. There is enough suitable brownfield land in England to build at least a million new homes, and the supply is constantly replenished. Developers prefer to build on virgin green field sites as they are easier to develop and more lucrative, and the current system allows them to do so. Sajid Javid, the housing minister, has promised a more ‘muscular’ state, but he appears to be more eager to take on ‘nimby’ protestors than to foster some serious competition to the few volume house builders who currently dominate the market.

What is needed is new housing providers, and the state – what Green Alliance trustee Mariana Mazzucato calls the entrepreneurial state – should be fostering them. However much the government pokes and cajoles them, the big builders have neither the means nor desire to build on the scale needed. We need new private sector providers – SMEs, custom builders, factory built homes – and fostering them requires concerted government action. The government should also support a serious programme of council house building – many Conservative councils are calling for the right to build – and fund housing associations to build social housing, so that they can recover their social mission. There is nothing un-Tory about this programme: Conservative governments built plenty of houses before 1979.

As for the so-called NIMBYs, those fighting to protect the countryside from more executive homes and anodyne, anywhere-housing estates have nothing to be ashamed of. My book makes the case for some new housing on greenfield sites, but if we are to lose countryside, let’s make sure we lose it to beautiful, well-thought out developments that do something to help those in housing need. That shouldn’t be too much to ask, should it?

How to build houses and save the countryside, by Shaun Spiers is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for just £7.99.

Find out more about impact, influence and engagement at Policy Press here.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Shared Lives: a new health and care system

Alex

Alex Fox

Alex Fox is the author of A new health and care system – out today and launching at Nesta this evening.

Here he unpicks the dehumanising tendencies of our public services to introduce a new health care model where those living with long-term conditions can achieve wellbeing in a system that looks at people’s strengths and capabilities, and their potential, not just their needs.

“The NHS was designed in the 1940s for brief encounters: healing us or fixing us up. It often does that astonishingly well. But now 15 million of us (most of us at some point during our lives) live with long-term conditions; three million with multiple long-term conditions. We cannot be healed or fixed, we can only live well, drawing on state support relatively little, or live badly, drawing on state support heavily and falling repeatedly into crisis. That long term, increasing reliance on intensive support services is not only likely to feel miserable to us as individuals and families, it drives long term financial meltdown which will bankrupt our service economies, even if they survive the current period of austerity.

“…we remain locked into seeing people who need support as illnesses, impairments, problems, risks, not as people who can and must share at least some of the responsibility for their own wellbeing.”

So we need a different relationship between people with long term conditions, their families and the services they turn to for help. But health and care leaders continue to talk and plan as if the health and care system was fixable by streamlining what we currently do, integrating various kinds of organisation, or making better use of tech. This is because, whether we use public services, work in them, or lead them, we remain locked into seeing people who need support as illnesses, impairments, problems, risks, not as people who can and must share at least some of the responsibility for their own wellbeing. We do not recognise that people who live for years or decades can become more expert in what works for their wellbeing than many of the professionals who necessarily dip in and out of their lives. Family carers provide more care than the state, but even they are not recognised as vital members of a wider caring team, who might need knowledge, training, equipment and emergency back up just as much as their paid colleagues.

“…fit support around a good life instead of asking people to fit their lives around a good service.”

To unpick this, we need to trace the dehumanising tendencies of our public services from their first contact with people who may need their support and their families, through all of their interactions, to the ways in which they ultimately reject, or in some cases, cling on to, their inmates. With demand rising, services are putting more resources into assessment processes designed to keep away the less needy, but those processes are themselves a drain on resources, and they ensure that those who meet needs thresholds are least able to identify and build on their own capacity to self-care, and have already had their confidence and independence demeaned and undermined by bureaucracy.

The alternative is to take an ‘asset-based’ approach to every long-term support service offered: looking for people’s strengths and capabilities, and their potential, not just their needs. For nearly everyone, these ‘assets’ are partly their relationships with friends and families, so every support service must be delivered in ways which fit round and back up those informal networks, minimising disruption to them.

There is already at least one nationally scaled support model which does this: Shared Lives, now used by 14,000 people in almost every UK area.

Edward, Stephen and Christina’s story

edward-2

Edward is 66 years old and lives with Shared Lives carers Stephen and Christina. Edward has a learning disability and has been blind since childhood, and when living with traditional methods of support his independence suffered. He didn’t have his own space and was restricted from carrying out many of the tasks and routines of daily life, as well as access to broader life experiences.

Stephen had had contact with Edward through his previous work as a social worker. He perceived that Edward had a lot of potential and believed he could do much more for himself. So when Stephen became a Shared Lives carer and developed his own personal care skills, he and Christina opened their home to Edward and made it their mission to develop his confidence.

The transformation has been profound, with Edward describing his increased independence: “I’ve got my own room and all the things I need. It’s been brilliant. I haven’t looked back since I’ve been with Stephen and Christine.”

Edward has gone from a situation in which he hardly ever experienced leisure activities or life outside home, to having an impressive list of holidays and trips under his belt. He has been to Las Vegas, and taken a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. Closer to home, with a bit of support from his Shared Lives carers, he has been to a Formula One Race at Silverstone: “I could feel the cars!” said Edward, describing the sensation of picking up the vibrations of the revving of engines through his feet.

Stephen has encouraged Edward’s enjoyment of the atmosphere at sporting events – and they go to the rugby almost every week. Through Shared Lives, Edward has been able to explore his pre-exiting interests in cars and sports to the full.

Shared Lives demonstrates that it is possible to combine people’s own capacity, with the strengths of positive family and community life, and the back-up and resources of a regulated care service. No one approach can be the magic bullet which will heal our ailing NHS, but Shared Lives offers lessons and challenges which could be taken up by any service: look for the person, not the condition; fit support around a good life instead of asking people to fit their lives around a good service; always connect.

A new health and care system [FC]A new health and care system, by Alex Fox is publishing on 28 February 2018 and is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for just £15.19.

Find out more about impact, influence and engagement at Policy Press here.

Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – sign up here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Election focus: Housing policy predictions & radical solutions

In the run up to the General Election we will be bringing you insightful pieces from our authors on policy-relevant subjects, including housing, health, welfare and, underpinning it all, increasing social inequality.

Let’s look beneath the distraction of Brexit and Labour’s disarray and examine the issues we really need to be thinking about as we put our cross in the box on the 8th June.

DB pic

Duncan Bowie

In this piece, Duncan Bowie, author of Radical solutions to the housing supply crisis looks at what housing policies may be included in the party manifestos and explains the radical solutions we need.

“The focus on Brexit and the negotiations on withdrawal from the European Union has meant that housing has not, at least as yet, become the key issue in the election campaign that perhaps would have been expected had the referendum not taken place.

Debates so far have focused far too much on the contrast between Theresa May’s advocacy of ‘strong and stable leadership’ and whether or not the Labour Party leader is fit to be Prime Minister or the divided Labour Party is ‘fit to govern’. There has been little focus on policy issues, though (at the time of writing), the main party manifestos have not been published.

The political parties, including the Conservatives, were all caught on the hop by the election announcement and consequently the drafting of the various electoral offers have been somewhat of a rushed process. Even a matter of weeks before the election was called, Labour housing spokespersons were reluctant to make any policy statements policy on the basis that it would be premature to give commitments before 2020, even though housing was bound to be a key issue in the local and city region Mayor elections, which were scheduled. Labour was even hesitant to commit to repealing the 2016 Housing and Planning Act, despite the fact they had opposed it in parliament.

Continue reading ‘Election focus: Housing policy predictions & radical solutions’


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