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Devolution to English cities and regions emerged as a prominent policy issue during the 2010-2015 Parliament. The first devolution deal with an English region was signed in November 2014, with Greater Manchester. Deals have since been agreed with ten other areas:

The deals are underpinned by the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016, which enables the Secretary of State to lay secondary legislation to establish an elected mayor of any combined authority area, and to confer local authority and public authority functions onto combined authorities.

All of the deals signed so far refer to housing and planning policy, with some features common across all or many deal areas and others only available to one or a few of the areas. Many of the deals also include a commitment to the exploration of further powers being devolved in the future.

Housing and planning powers that feature in one or more devolution deals include:

  • Pubic land commission / joint assets board
  • Establishment of Mayoral Development Corporations
  • Compulsory purchase orders*
  • Creation of a spatial strategy / framework*
  • Call-in powers / consultation on strategic planning applications*
  • Control of a new Housing Investment Fund
  • Community Infrastructure Levy

Areas that have agreed devolution deals with Government have generally indicated that they do not feel the deals go far enough and that they will continue to push to see more powers devolved. The funding streams and responsibilities on housing that have been devolved in deals fall short of what areas asked for in their initial proposals, which include:

  • control over a Housing Investment Fund (grant or recyclable loan), like that agreed in Greater Manchester;
  • greater flexibility around the distribution of existing funding streams, including Right to Buy receipts, with the ultimate aim of pooling streams into a single housing pot;
  • closer collaboration with the HCA, with the ultimate aim in some areas of taking over HCA powers to direct investment in housing and regeneration;
  • consolidation or lifting of the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) debt cap.

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