Kevan Carrick
Kevan Carrick

Member Article

Housing and infrastructure are key priorities for surveyors

AS a chartered surveyor, I know that my professional body, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), is always working hard to influence Government policy-makers in a number of areas. Two of these are housing and infrastructure, both of which are very important to the North East.

The Government this week has made two significant announcements on these matters. The first is the launch of a £59m fund to accelerate Enterprise Zone growth. In the North East, we have EZs in Northumberland, South Tyneside, Sunderland and Tees Valley and the fund is a very welcome boost to driving growth through the economic engine rooms.

The other concerns the prospectus for a £474m Local Infrastructure Fund to assist the delivery of growth by 2015. Part of the focus is on larger housing sites of not less than 1,500 units either designated in a local plan or already holding outline consent.

Importantly for the long-term viability of the Local Infrastructure Fund, it targets investment in land and property schemes on a recoverable basis, providing an immediate economic boost, and mobilising long-term private finance whilst providing a longer term return on investment to the taxpayer.

It recognises that a significant barrier to development is access to finance for the delivery of upfront infrastructure. This is preventing the delivery of a range of housing and commercial development sites, and acting as a drag on economic activity. The Local Infrastructure Fund can unlock these opportunities; specifically locally supported large housing sites and schemes with real growth potential in Enterprise Zones.

These initiatives are laudable and welcome but there is a long way to go – especially when it comes to housing. As we all know, building starts are still way below what they need to be. The Government’s 2011 housing strategy is delivering only small, piecemeal growth and the RICS is currently working on a range of practical suggestions to change this.

The organisation has established a commission chaired by RICS president elect and CEO of Broadland Housing Michael Newey. It brings together a number of senior industry figures and invites oral and written submissions of practical examples of initiatives that would help boost the number of homes across the country.

The commission is examining several questions over three evidence sessions and will deliver its findings to the UK housing minister and the shadow housing minister. The questions are;

How affordable can future housing be and how should subsidised housing be paid for?

How can we improve our existing stock quickly and sustainably to create homes which meet the standards we need?

What regulation is appropriate and what outcomes should regulation be designed to achieve?

How do we ensure that there is enough land in the right places to meet the need for new homes?

How do policy-makers and practitioners ensure that affordable rented housing is attractive to institutional investors?

Do we really need another housing report, I hear you say! I take your point, but RICS offers a unique opportunity to consider housing delivery from the perspective of all types of tenure to truly understand how each part of the sector impacts on the other.

I do not think that I am breaking any confidences to say that this is also very much in the minds of Newcastle and Gateshead Councils, who are looking at how to kick-start the housing markets in their areas as a joined up piece of thinking. I congratulate them on the willingness to collaborate.

So to help Government, this region and raise your own profile please send in your examples of how your business is innovating to deliver homes – whether new-build, rental property or in the social housing sector. Further details are available at www.rics.org/housingcommission or simply submit your evidence by email to mthorogood@rics.org

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Kevan Carrick .

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