Developing Regional and Local Housing Strategies

Some of these local housing strategy systems have quite a long history, as in Britain where they date from 1978, while others may be more recent (Bramley et al. 1980; Varady 1996; Lawson and Milligan 2007). The motives for introducing or changing local systems may vary. For example, they may be a way of getting local authorities to think more creatively about alternative means to meeting housing ends, or a way of sugaring the pill of cuts in investment resources, or a vehicle for getting national government ministers’ pet programmes implemented, or a competitive approach to resource allocation, or a way of getting local authorities to talk to other stakeholders. However, these systems remain embedded in the classic ‘comprehensive rational’ planning model. As such, local housing strategies are expected to contain such elements as a broad ‘vision’ for the area and its housing; consultation with local stakeholders about problems, issues and possible responses; a sound information base and analysis of the current situation and trends; clear priorities and objectives; appraisal of alternative options; and an implementation framework (O’Sullivan 2003, p. 222, citing Bramley et al. 2000). Whether actual practice lives up to these ideals, to any degree, is a moot point (Audit Commission 1992; Barlow et al. 1994; Varady 1996; O’Sullivan 2003; Blackaby 2000).

© The Author(s) 2017

N. Gurran, G. Bramley, Urban Planning and the Housing Market, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-46403-3_10

Nevertheless, regional housing strategies can provide a mechanism for identifying and responding to housing needs in a coordinated way, taking these spatial and administrative mismatches into account. In many nations, it is also the case that the housing system itself has bifurcated between ‘private’ and ‘public’ (government funded and managed) housing provision. While in many cases local authorities have responsibility for regulating overall housing development through their planning functions, as well as direct provision of subsidised housing, these roles are often undertaken by different departments. Varady (1996) found that in the 1990s, these two ‘arms’ of planning for housing were not working together in Scottish cities, while doing so only imperfectly in England. In other nations, local planning functions have focussed specifically on regulating the private market. As such divisions break down through increasingly diversified non-government and private sector involvement in subsidised housing provision, local and regional strategies provide a framework for analysing the housing system in a coherent way.

This chapter provides operational guidance on how to develop a local or regional housing strategy, having regard to some lessons from past attempts in several countries. We certainly acknowledge the limitations of local interventions, given the deep interactions between local housing trends and wider economic conditions influencing the market, as well as the jurisdiction-specific limits placed on local governments in relation to their policy and regulatory powers, which differ between countries. Nevertheless, the very localised nature of housing production and consumption demands a particular focus. As well as explaining techniques, indicators and data sources for undertaking a housing need and market analysis, the chapter draws on operational examples, from the UK, the USA and Australia, for illustration. In particular, the detailed approach to undertaking a strategic housing market analysis is illustrated with reference to the City of Bristol in England’s South West. We then show how housing strategies come together in practice with reference to three recent plans, for the cities of New York, London and Melbourne, respectively. The first section of this chapter defines housing strategies and provides an overview of the range of policy objectives and themes they typically address. The second section provides guidance for building the evidence base by undertaking a housing need and market analysis. The third section turns to the formulation of the strategy, identifying potential responses to a range of housing needs and market contexts.

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