Unlocking the gridlock: How a more democratic planning system can help fix the housing crisis

This publication examines the inadequacies of the current planning system in providing necessary levels and quality of housing, and urges that any reforms must focus on giving local residents authority over developments in their area - to help fix the housing crisis.

The report argues that the current system creates ‘gridlock’ because it gives too much power to planning authorities, and offers too little opportunity for neighbours  to find ‘win-win’ solutions that protect the interests of existing residents while also creating new housing.

The report was written by John Myers of the PricedOut and YIMBY Alliance campaigns,  which press for more new housing. Drawing on the insights of Nobel prize winning economists Elinor Ostrom and Ronald Coase, Myers suggests that developing a system that encourages developers and residents to strike mutually beneficial bargains could be a way forward. He argues for a ‘peer-to-peer’ decision making system that allows local people direct powers to allow more development – tailored to the region (rural or otherwise).

The report highlights the continuing burden of the housing crisis, and urges the government to take action. 

Myers points to official estimates that the total value of UK housing is now £3.7 trillion more than the cost of building those homes, proof that the housing market is functioning poorly. One cause is  a   planning system that create enormous inefficiencies that force up the cost of housing, with a range of negative consequences:

  • Between 1995-2005, the proportion of 25-34-year-olds who own their home has fallen from 65% to 27%. Many more are more are compelled to rent, typically far away from the best career and educational opportunities. 
  • The number of families in London who were living in overcrowded conditions, according to the bedroom standards, rose from 5.5% in 2000 to 8.3% in 2020.
  • The number of workers commuting two hours or more increased by 72% from 2004 to 2016. 

Some estimates suggest that restrictions on housing supply dampen economic growth rates by two percentage points a year.

The report floats four ideas that the Government should pursue in its forthcoming Planning Bill, all focused on democratising the planning system, and allowing more housing to be provided whilst preventing local residents fearing the loss of control over their neighbourhoods.


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