Government moves to unblock stalled housing projects
In a speech to the National House Building Council yesterday Clegg said: “We will unlock the barriers to investment. We will make sure that bureaucracy does not hold back these developments bringing partners together to get action on the ground. And where investment is required I can announce new funding. We will provide £225m of government money which will also leverage private investment to effectively de-risk these or similar projects and get them moving.
“We will work with prospective developments and ensure that any public sector investment secures value for money from the taxpayer and once these developments are complete the taxpayer will get that money back.”
Clegg said that although the coalition won’t deliver whole new cities overnight, in the housing strategy that he launched with the Prime Minister last year, the government was committed to running a competition to promote a wave of larger-scale projects where there was clear local support and private sector appetite.
He said: “We committed to publishing a prospectus setting out more detail on what we expect from local authorities and developers and what we can offer in return. We’re hammering out the detail of that now and there’s some fairly lively debate happening in government about how to do this. But I’m very clear that I want the prospectus to offer real and meaningful incentives so that it encourages projects that are big and bold.
“Government needs to get better at encouraging these kinds of long-term developments, which, by definition, take time and need certainty. Departments aren’t used to thinking beyond the next spending review, let alone the next Parliament, but we need to shift our sights. Of course we can’t start making decisions for the next spending round now and we need to be realistic about the pressure on the public finances which will continue for some time. But we can and we must ensure local areas have the time and the direction to prepare their bids.
“I want us to make the best offers to the most ambitious proposals. So not just 5000 new homes; but fifteen thousand, twenty-five thousand.
“I want us to encourage projects which are sustainable and socially diverse. Where it makes sense I want us to designate more, new greenbelt around new settlements- that’s something no government has really done for a generation.
“We’ll need to find ways to create more certainty for large scale projects. And, in general, I think we need to move to longer timeframes in the way we budget for capital.”
Clegg added: “And I want us to offer these projects and communities real financial freedoms. The coalition has created a new power for local areas to borrow against future business rate revenues – tax increment financing, or TIF. Councils tell me that is a massive help in raising investment for local infrastructure. And personally I’m very keen that we look at these kinds of financial freedoms in the context of new garden cities