I think this is a great analysis of the powers, flexibilities and influence that the newly elected combined authority (metro) mayors will bring to housing (and other policy areas). It does not hide an underlying aim to make the case for more devolution and greater investment in social/affordable. But neither does it ignore elements that may not align with these principles.
It starts with looking at future demand for housing and current supply – a stark reminder that, if the economic cycle continues, all the mayors will struggle to house their population. New mayors will be being able to set their own housing targets, tenure mix, select sites for regeneration, assemble land, use CPO powers, establish development corporations and use flexibilities over funding. However the report argues that limits to theses powers, funding, influence and flexibility mean that the gap will not be closed to the degree needed. The proposals are more akin to the devolution of the current national housing policy rather than devolution of control. Or the ‘half way’ house of the report’s title.
The report suggests ways that mayors can use their powers to the best advantage and what other powers could be devolved. At times this does become a bit of list of government asks but the analysis picks up on some of the more creative and innovative proposals. An example is the Cambridge-Peterborough combined authorities’ approach that should demonstrate that real flexibilities are not just confined to London. There is also the £1bn Tees Valley equity based investment vehicle.
Some headline Government policies are analysed. The single pots are small in comparison to previous ones. For instance AWM the old West Midlands RDA controlled funding which was ten times that for the new West Mids Combined Authority but with a population of only twice the size. The likely benefits of CIL and even control over stamp duty will not generate huge sums. Key partners such a local authorities will always want to focus on their political areas and the Mayors may struggle to enforce collaborative working without making compromises. Councils have the power of veto over CPO proposals.
I think there are some areas the analysis is weak on. The importance of land that is wrapped up into regeneration/redevelopment deals, acting as patient equity (land value only being realised towards the end of a successful programme) is not covered in enough detail. I believe it has scope to unlock significant housing and some of the recent HCA backed schemes have demonstrated this very effectively (ie Bearbrook House, Aylesbury). There are also numerous examples of land/asset backed special purpose vehicles, such a s the recent Haringey one, that could have been referenced. There is no doubt that existing public sector land, including HCA holdings, will play a major part in how the Metro Mayors hope to deliver their housing aspirations. Finally the relationship with investors and developers is critical. The sovereign fund/foreign investor arrangement seen in Manchester could have perhaps been compared to a more traditional developer collaborative approach seen in, say, Birmingham.