Is it too good to be true?
Can it be possible? The RIBA’s Future Homes Commission has proposed a means for local authorities to invest in new housing using money that, effectively, is just sitting around.
Its idea is that they can set up a housing fund from part of the money that they are holding in their pension funds. Of course this money is not ‘doing nothing’. It is invested elsewhere.
What the RIBA is suggesting is that they invest in their own future. It would take an accountancy expert to work out what exactly would happen to the value of those assets – presumably at some stage the local authority would have to sell them on to a housing association in order to realise the money for its pension pot? But it is a really exciting idea. It gives a central role back to local authorities, it gives them a vested interest in making sure that the housing they produce is well designed, appropriate and well-maintained. It is the localism that the government claims to want, although not in the form that it foresaw.
Will it happen though? That, I fear, is the hardest question of all.