Road to destitution

IT SOUNDS LIKE something from the 1960s but the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit is actually part of the government’s response to the Barker report, an attempt to ‘strengthen the market evidence base and analysis currently available to regional planning bodies’ and ‘help to ensure that new homes identified in regional plans have a positive impact on improving housing affordability’.

The unit will comprise a six-person board (academics Stephen Nickell, Glen Bramley and Paul Cheshire, former CML deputy chief executive Peter Williams and regeneration specialists Max Steinberg and Bob Lane) plus 12 staff. Its job will be to advise on:

  • a distribution of regional affordability targets that would be consistent with the government’s overall ambitions for housing affordability and supply
  • the methodology for translating regional affordability targets into housing numbers
  • its assessment of the implications of the recommended regional affordability targets for the level and broad distribution of future house building in the region.

If that sounds like a tall order, that’s because it is. In an age in which house prices are rising fastest in “low-demand” areas and previous market assumptions have been disrupted by the boom in buy to let and inward migration into the south east, the unit will have its work cut out.