What Should Local Authorities be Doing to Address the Housing Crisis?
One of the causes of the current housing crisis is cultural with councils and local residents tending to oppose new developments, on instinct. To solve our housing problem, more partnerships are going to be needed between local authorities and developers and we need to look more positively at developing our spaces.
The Housing Crisis
Amy: What could councils be doing to address the housing crisis? How could they be working differently?
Grant: The mindset differs from council to council. Some councils have one perspective and other councils have a different perspective.
In a lot of instances, councils will automatically start with a 'no' and then you have to talk them over to a 'yes'. You have to work to change their mindset and convince them of the positives.
On a small scale, near my house, they want to build 600 more houses and the local residents are up in arms.
But when you actually ask them, 'Why are you up in arms? What is your problem with this? Is it more money in the area? Is it more people in the area? Is it more kids in the schools with more money going into the schools? Is it a new school being built? Is it the extra buses being laid on for the extra people? Are there more shops being built? Will there be more people attracted to the area or the economy? Is that your problem?'
It's a mindset. Culturally, I don't know if it's just a British thing or an international thing. But we automatically go to a no.
Over the years, we've had people come to us and say, 'We want you to write a letter to the planners on our behalf saying why we don't want this to go ahead.'. And I ask the question, 'Well, why don't you want it to go ahead? What's the problem?'
And often, the answer will be something like, 'We like that view and we don't want it spoiled.' Now, I understand that something like a view can be a problem but you don't really have a right to a view.
But, nine times out of ten there isn't actually a problem. It's just people don't like change. They just go straight to a no position.
So, I think in a lot of cases, councils should get more involved in partnering with developers and looking at development as being an important part of the economy for the area.
Amy: And this is a shame that they are not doing this because as we know in the private sector, those skills exist, that finance exists. Those, you know, the people are there, everything's there to solve the problem.
As you say, it's a culture of change, it's a mindset switch. And allowing us to work in a different way and say, 'Yeah, actually, we could solve this problem if we formed a great relationship with a number of developers across our region.'
Grant: And there seems to be, in this, perhaps a very old, engrained ideology that developers want to screw people or they want to provide the most profitable thing.
In all my career I have never come across a developer who hasn't just wanted to develop the best thing. They want it to look the best, they want it to be the nicest space. They take a certain amount of ego from it. They take pride in their work.
I've never come across somebody whose intention is to screw people. Now, don't get me wrong. It's got to make money. It's got to be profitable. We're all in business...
At the end of the day, if you deliver a product that you can't sell because it's crammed in and it doesn't deliver a lifestyle that your market wants, you're going to be stuck with an asset that you can't release. So you're not making any money.
People are quite savvy. They want something which is nice. So you just can't stick up anything you want.
I think it's a mindset change. Maybe it's a generational thing. When a lot of the 25-year civil servants leave and the younger generation comes in with their own ideas then perhaps things will change.