Metro mayors should gain ‘radical housing powers’

The new wave of metro mayors should be granted ‘significant powers’ over planning and housing, a new report has argued.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) report Closer to Home sets out the main housing challenges facing the new wave of ‘Metro Mayors’ set to be elected for the first time in May 2017, arguing that London’s housing crisis will travel north unless radical powers are handed to mayors in Liverpool, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands.

The report claims that mayors are best placed to tackle the current crop of housing issues, such as the difficulty facing first time buyers and the possible fall in private sector housebuilding as a result of Brexit.

If the government is to even come close to hitting its target of one million new homes by the end of the current parliament, the IPPR believes that the wide housing variation across the country - opportunities, challenges and requirements - must be recognised. The progress of devolution must be pushed further to address this.

The government should extend powers to: allow mayors control over the greenbelt; hand mayors stamp duty proceeds from new build homes as an incentive to increase supply; and provide the ability to put levies on empty homes.

Ed Cox, the director of IPPR North, said: “The ’northern powerhouse’ and ’Midlands engine’ would be driven by mayors and it’s vital they have the powers to build enough homes – recreating a London housing crisis in regional cities would be a disaster.”

Charlotte Snelling, researcher at IPPR, said: “England has not one housing market but several. The problems facing Kensington in London, and the problems in Kensington in Liverpool, are very different and best tackled locally.

“There is no doubt that successive London mayors been successful in using their significant levers on transport, but the powers given to the Mayor of London over housing even today are still too piecemeal and partial. The last thing we need is the new wave of mayors facing a London-style housing crisis. The government should devolve powers and mayors must set out exactly how they will help the government meet its housing targets.”

The IPPR report follows an article in The Sunday Telegraph that claimed the government is planning to install a new wave of prefabs in a drive to solve Britain’s housing crisis. The paper warned that more than 100,000 pre-packed modular homes could be constructed as the government looks at ways to meet its target to provide a million new homes by 2020.