Conclusion: Reuniting Planning and Housing Policy


As we move forward through the twenty-first century our central contention is that planning and housing policies need to be brought together to meet the challenges presented by inequality, poverty, demographic and environmental change under wider processes of globalisation. These themes are drawn together in this final chapter which restates the imperative for government involvement in the housing market even though the problems which have to be addressed have changed from those which originally motivated state involvement. The concept of housing/social policy regimes introduced in Chap. 3 is revisited in this context. Differing welfare regimes are challenged by common forces of globalisation, finan- cialisation and perceived fiscal limits on state activity, and we ask how far this is leading to convergence.

We then turn our attention to planning, and argue that, although planning in some form is a universal, unavoidable function of governments, the nature of planning regimes varies quite widely. Having characterised the key differences, we argue that these give rise to different characteristic problems in different systems. We reject simplistic dichotomies and © The Author(s) 2017

N. Gurran, G. Bramley, Urban Planning and the Housing Market, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-46403-3_12

caricatures of ‘planning versus the market’, pointing out that planning can help markets to operate more effectively, in quite a few ways, for example by increasing certainty, arranging infrastructure and amenities, promoting sustainability and curbing speculative excess. At the same time, we acknowledge that planning can stifle and restrict housing supply and identify some of the underlying reasons for this in the operation of what is typically a decentralised system where local politics and incentives play important roles. Evidence from our case studies suggests that control over land, in terms of ownership and the power it confers to initiate development, is important, and also that not all housing supply is equally beneficial. The scale and structure of local government is important, including whether there is effective metropolitan-scale governance and planning, how financial mechanisms can help or hinder effective planning, and how economic growth motivations can be linked to housing.

In reviewing the contemporary challenges for housing and planning policy we see widening inequality reflected in problems of housing affordability and housing-induced poverty, reduced opportunities for younger generations to participate in the aspirational tenure of home ownership, growing wealth inequalities (including between generations) and the issues posed for welfare benefits and taxation of property. Demographic challenges arising from migration, ageing and household formation are highlighted. The dominant environmental challenges relate to climate change mitigation and adaptation, resilience and urban compaction. All of these come together in creating challenges for healthy, harmonious urban living for diverse and unequal societies.

We argue that it is not just effective planning practices for delivering an adequate total supply of housing which are required, but also more extensive use of inclusionary planning practices in new housing development. These hold much potential and promise for promoting affordability, wider choice and opportunity for people to move through the housing market at different life stages, and more social integration within urban communities. We highlight the barriers to more extensive use of these planning mechanisms, under differing planning regimes, but also the potential gains in a context of fiscal limitations on traditional housing subsidy mechanisms. It is clearly the case that effective planning mechanisms also need to be complemented by appropriate institutional structures for the delivery and management of social and affordable intermediate housing. We note wide variation between countries in the scale and strength of these institutions, and also the threats and opportunities which arise from wider national and international forces.

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