Responding to Key Challenges

Throughout this book, we have highlighted what we regard to be the central challenges for housing in the twenty-first century as rising inequality, demographic pressures, environmental sustainability and urban living. At this point, we try to draw together some conclusions on the ways in which planning in general, and planning for affordable and diverse housing in particular, can help to meet these challenges.

Rising Inequality

Planning for housing cannot do much to counter trends of widening income inequality, although it may play its part in ameliorating some of the consequences in terms of housing affordability. Neither can planning address directly the incomes of the growing retirement-age population. However, but as the housing regimes literature reminds us, the share of owner occupation in future cohorts of retired households will have a major bearing on their standards of living and resilience to the exigencies of ageing. Planning and housing have a much greater role to play in the future distribution of wealth because of the large and potentially growing share of housing equity in total personal wealth. Decades of growth in owner occupation have seen significant recent reverses in many countries, with entry to ownership delayed or disappointed for many younger households. Consequently there is a growing reliance upon private market renting, a tenure which offers little opportunity for saving and assetbuilding and often significant problems of insecurity and poor quality.

Planning can offer a two-pronged strategy to address this challenge. Firstly, it can seek to address the barriers to increasing overall supply substantially, particularly in regions of high economic growth and labour demand. Strategies involved include more effective analysis of future need and demand (Chap. 10), metropolitan-scale collaborative planning, bolder planning of new settlements and urban extensions, longer planning horizons, more effective mechanisms for planning and financing urban infrastructure, rethinking the form and shape of urban growth boundaries and green belts and new (or reinvented) publicly led vehicles for large-scale land development which solve the twin problems of land value recapture and the cautious, uncompetitive behaviour of established speculative housebuilding companies. (Some of these ideas were developed in Chap. 11.) Increasing overall housing supply in well-located areas and in environmentally sustainable development typologies, is a longterm strategy whose beneficial effects would be felt, in terms of prices and affordability, over quite a long time horizon. This requires cross-party political support to be sustained, but will be aided where planning for housing can be coupled to the economic growth coalitions in key regions.

The second prong of the strategy involves inclusionary and ‘affordable’ housing (Chap. 11). Our case studies show that there is a widespread will to try such policies but very variable scale of achievement. The best examples, such as England, show that inclusionary approaches can be mainstreamed and deliver affordable housing on a large scale, and gain acceptance as the normal, natural way of doing housing development. However, this possibility is much affected by the nature of the planning regime and the degree of support afforded to the policy by higher level (national/state/provincial) government and indeed by the legal system and the courts. In the long run, countries with planning regimes dominated by zoning, and private control of most land, will generally need legislation to give greater legitimacy to these inclusionary policies and practices, and so change the expectations of landowners and the development industry. Inclusionary practices vary and continue to evolve, in part in reflection of national housing regimes, with some emphasising affordable home ownership whilst others place more emphasis on social rented housing. We would argue that a mixed strategy is probably socially optimal, but that including a significant element of LCHO is likely to do more to address the crisis of home ownership, counter the skewing of wealth distribution and also tap into stronger currents of political popularity. However, the design of schemes is important, to avoid waste of subsidy in pushing up demand without linkage to supply (so pushing up prices); to ensure targeting on groups genuinely unable to buy in the market; and to enable subsidy to be recycled to support future marginal buyers rather than collected as a free capital gain by the lucky few.

 
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