The council housing challenge

Goldsmith Street, Norwich

Local authorities need to be more ambitious in their regeneration strategies. Kate Parker reports

Goldsmith Street, designed by Mikhail Riches and Cathy Hawley, won 2019’s RIBA Stirling Prize – and was built by Norwich Council. It is one of many streets across the UK built and funded by local authorities, a trend that has accelerated since 2018, when the government removed the borrowing cap on the Housing Revenue Account introduced in 2012, allowing councils to once more build their own housing.

report published by Savills in 2018 estimated around 5,000 extra homes a year could be built and it is estimated that a third of local authorities have now set up their own housing development companies (devcos) or have plans to set them up.

However, Emily Williams, research analyst at Savills, says the stock levels predicted in 2018 are not being seen on the ground.

“Our analysis found between about £10bn and £15bn of extra borrowing capacity could go towards investing in social and affordable housing,” she says. “If we are building 300,000 homes a year, about a third needs to be some form of affordable tenure and we are nowhere near to delivering it.”

So why are some councils struggling to deliver the necessary affordable housing? And what can others learn from these failures?

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