Integrating house-building and public services

House-building and public services

An independent opinion poll undertaken for KPMG has revealed an interesting new twist to the affordable housing debate.

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Integrating house-building and public services

Research by KPMG has shown that concerns over impact on health and education are outweighing traditional concerns over the building of new homes.  Of the 10,000 respondents to an independent poll conducted for KPMG by Red Dot Research, 69 percent felt there was not enough affordable housing in the UK. However, when questioned about new housing developments, the perceived impact they would have on key services such as health and education was of more concern than traditional issues such as space to build and impact on house prices. 

While strain on the NHS and the education sector is constantly in the media, our research confirms that such issues are now a part of the housing crisis. I believe we need to tackle this issue of joining up health, education and housing provision, because these are exactly the sort of concerns which lead to campaigns against new developments and the refusal of planning permission.

In many cases, the people petitioning have a point. There are areas where our health and education services are already overstretched and more people moving in would be a huge burden. This is why we need far better integration between the NHS, the Department for Education and the housing sector. We must get better at either building new homes at the same time as providing new services, or building new homes where sufficient available services already exist. If we do this and prove to the public that integration works, we can start to change public opinion. 

Devolution can help, where housing, education and hospitals are taken under the remit of the local region – as in Manchester. 

In such areas developers’ contributions to local infrastructure through section 106 agreements could be allocated more widely, for example to buy more maternity beds in a local hospital or a new classroom for a school. More broadly, it’s a good idea to give those who know the needs of a locality the power to decide how housing and services fit together. Devolution also plays well into the issues raised around jobs and transport – these are all major concerns to local people, and a more local approach to dealing with the whole integration piece would work well. 

There is scope to turn this question of integration of public services from a negative into a positive. If we integrate housing into health, education and other important services, new homes will become a boon to a community. It could see new schools, A&E wards re-opening rather than closing, extra trains being put on to cope with a larger population, benefiting those moving in as well as those who are already settled. While this alone won’t fix the housing crisis, changing people’s perceptions will help overcome the ‘not in my back yard’ mentality, and help ensure new developments receive support rather than condemnation. Our social, transport and health infrastructure are planned and run by a patchwork of different organisations – joining these up more with housing infrastructure is a no brainer. 

Affordable housing is one of KPMG’s six social mobility priorities.  In 2014, KPMG published a major report with Shelter entitled ‘Building the Homes We Need’ and has since campaigned for a definitive plan to tackle the housing crisis. KPMG continues to call for land and planning reform, provision of Government funding diversification of the house building sector to encourage new developers into the market, and more power given to local authorities.

Speaking to the Financial Times, KPMG’s UK Chairman and Senior Partner Simon Collins, said: “As well as specific help for our own people, I would like to use our convening power to help with a range of other things, including brownfield development, new sites, a carrot to encourage building and a stick to develop or let go of land banks.”

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