The Archbishops’ Commission on Housing, Church and Community report Coming Home and the case for setting out a long-term housing strategy, House of Lords, 24 April 2021

Councils are committed to ensuring new homes are built and communities have quality places to live. It is vital that these are delivered through a locally-led planning system with public participation at its heart which gives communities the power to ensure new developments are of a high standard, built in the right places, and include affordable homes.


Key messages

  • The Archbishops’ Commission on Housing, Church and Community report ‘Coming Home’ makes an important contribution to the debate on the future of the nation’s housing policy. It sets out ideas for helping to deliver more affordable homes where people feel they belong and can contribute to a community.
  • A key part of the recovery from COVID-19 will be the delivery of quality, affordable homes and the supporting infrastructure to create sustainable, resilient places. The Government has rightly set an ambitious national house-building target of 300,000 homes a year, and these are desperately needed. With council housing waiting lists set to potentially nearly double as a result of COVID-19, a genuine renaissance in council housebuilding is required to boost housing supply, help families struggling to meet housing costs, and tackle housing waiting lists.  
  • The LGA is calling on the Government to provide councils with the powers and tools to deliver 100,000 much-needed social homes per year. Our report ‘Delivery of council housing: a stimulus package post-pandemic’, sets out the steps, measures and reforms that would support councils to work towards delivering a new generation of social homes. Building 100,000 new social homes per year could result in a £14.5 billion boost to the economy, kick starting our construction sector with 89,000 jobs worth £3.9 billion and adding £4.8 billion, with a further £5.7 to the supply chain. 
  • The LGA has long-called for reform to Right to Buy and we are pleased that the Government has announced it will extend the timeframe local authorities have to spend new and existing Right to Buy receipts from 3 years to 5 years. It is also good to see that the Government will increase the percentage cost of a new home that local authorities can fund using Right to Buy receipts from 30 per cent to 40 per cent.
  • Councils are committed to ensuring new homes are built and communities have quality places to live. It is vital that these are delivered through a locally-led planning system with public participation at its heart which gives communities the power to ensure new developments are of a high standard, built in the right places, and include affordable homes.
  • A radical overhaul of the planning system will not support the Government’s ambitions to build 300,000 homes a year, or the much needed 100,000 social homes a year.  Any loss of local control over developments would be a concern. It would deprive communities of the ability to define the area they live in and risks giving developers the freedom to ride roughshod over local areas. With 9 in 10 planning applications approved by councils, and more than a million homes given planning permission but not yet built, it is clear that it is the housing delivery system that is broken, not the planning system. We are calling on the Government to fully engage with, and take advantage of, the expertise in local government to ensure that their aspirations of an improved system work in practice.

Working in partnership

  • The LGA welcomes the Archbishops’ Commission on Housing, Church and Community’s vision of what good housing should look like, including its five core values that all homes should be; sustainable, safe, stable, sociable and satisfying. Strategies to alleviate the housing crisis need to go beyond the number of homes built and need to be part of a holistic approach which creates sustainable communities where people have a sense of belonging and where they can flourish.
  • Councils want to create developments that are not only well designed, but ensure that they address health, social and cultural needs in a holistic manner, as well as meeting the diverse needs of existing and future residents.  Developments need to be sensitive to their natural and built environment and contribute to a high quality of life, creating sustainable employment opportunities, vibrant town centres, and good accessibility to education and healthcare.
  • There is also an opportunity to boost the use of Modern Methods of Construction in housing delivery, as well as accelerate the switch to sources of renewable energy in a new generation of house builds, to help meet the ambition for net zero carbon by 2050.
  • We welcome the Commission’s recommendation that the Church of England commits to using its land assets to promote more truly affordable homes, through developments that deliver on its five core values. Councils are keen to work with landowners to identify how appropriate land could be brought forward to meet the housing needs of local communities.
  • Councils are committed to working in partnership to create better places by using public sector assets more efficiently, creating service and financial benefits for partners, as well as releasing land for housing and other development to deliver wider social, environmental and economic outcomes for local communities.
  • More than 97 per cent of councils in England are now engaged in the One Public Estate (OPE) programme (jointly delivered by the LGA and Cabinet Office), which supports public bodies to identify and release surplus land, with a particular emphasis on repurposing public land for housing and economic uses.

Delivery of council housing

  • In order to tackle the national housing shortage, councils need to be empowered to build more affordable, good quality homes at scale, and fast, where these are locally needed. The LGA is calling on the Government to provide councils with the powers and tools to deliver 100,000 much-needed social homes per year.
  • Our report ‘Delivery of council housing: a stimulus package post-pandemic’, sets out the steps, measures and reforms that would support councils to work towards delivering a new generation of 100,000 high quality social homes per year.
  • We are calling for the Government to bring forward and increase the £12 billion extension of the Affordable Homes Programme announced at Budget 2020. This needs to include an increased focus on homes for social rent and increased grant levels per home to maximise the number of viable schemes.
  • The LGA has long-called for reform to Right to Buy and we are pleased that the Government has announced it will extend the timeframe local authorities have to spend new and existing Right to Buy receipts from 3 years to 5 years. It is also good to see that the Government will increase the percentage cost of a new home that local authorities can fund using Right to Buy receipts from 30 per cent to 40 per cent. We look forward to working with the Government to implement these reforms. Councils should be able to retain 100 per cent of Right to Buy receipts and be given flexibility to set discounts locally in order to invest in new and existing stock.
  • The LGA’s paper ‘Building post-pandemic prosperity’ illustrates how building 100,000 new social homes per year would result in a £14.5 billion boost to the economy, kick starting our construction sector with 89,000 jobs worth £3.9 billion and adding £4.8 billion, with a further £5.7 to the supply chain. 

Reform of the planning system

  • The Government has published proposals to overhaul the planning system, in the Planning for the Future White Paper, and the Changes to the current planning system consultation. 
  • Councils have raised concerns that a wholesale overhaul of the existing system and change to a new system, including the necessary legislation, will create uncertainty and take many years to deliver and implement across Whitehall and the wider planning sector. This could impact on investment and housing delivery in the short to medium term.
  • A number of other concerns about the proposals have been raised by councils, these include; the implications of a new system of developer contributions on the provision of affordable homes and infrastructure, the resourcing of the planning system and its capacity to absorb the proposed changes, and the lack of additional incentives in the proposals for developers to build-out existing permissions.
  • The LGA continues to campaign for a locally led planning system and this is particularly important as we rebuild and recover from COVID-19, as set out in our report Local Planning Authorities: Developing a recovery and resilience planning package post-pandemic.
  • Any loss of local control over developments would be a concern. It would deprive communities of the ability to define the area they live in and risks giving developers the freedom to ride roughshod over local areas. With 9 in 10 planning applications approved by councils, and more than a million homes given planning permission but not yet built, it is clear that it is the housing delivery system that is broken, not the planning system. Our estimates also show that more than a million homes on land earmarked for development by councils are yet to be brought forward by developers for planning permission.
  • A radical overhaul of the planning system will not support the Government’s ambitions to build 300,000 homes a year, or the much needed 100,000 social homes a year. We are calling on the Government to fully engage with and take advantage of the expertise in local government to ensure that their aspirations of an improved system work in practice.

Permitted Development Rights

  • Permitted development rights have removed the ability of local planning authorities to secure planning requirements on affordable homes or wider place-making standards, as highlighted in the Raynsford Review of Planning. This means communities have no way to ensure developers meet high quality standards, provide any affordable homes as part of the development or ensure supporting infrastructure such as roads, schools and health services are in place.
  • We are calling on the Government to remove nationally set permitted development rights, giving councils and local communities the ability to shape the area they live in and ensure homes are built to high standards with the necessary infrastructure in place. This will also ensure that councils do not lose funding for much needed affordable homes.  
  • The Government’s own research has highlighted how conversions through change of use permitted development rights can fail to meet adequate design standards, avoid contributing to local areas and create worse living environments.
  • Permitted development undermines the delivery of much needed affordable housing at a time when we need it more than ever. Communities have already potentially lost 16,200 affordable homes through office to residential conversions. In some parts of the country, office conversions carried out under permitted development rights amount to almost half of new housing. The Government’s recent proposals to allow a change of use for all commercial and business uses to residential will further exacerbate the problem.