Public investment needed to solve housing crisis

KevinGulliverA new campaign to save social housing is launched in Westminster today. Shout – Social housing under threat – marks a new stage in a growing tide of public and political opinion that the housing crisis will only be solved through direct public investment in homes at rents ordinary people can afford.

Although recent calls for such a shift in policy have come from across the political spectrum, Shout was set in motion in January 2014 by former minister of state for housing and planning, John Healey MP, in a call to arms in a Guardian article.

Shout is publishing its manifesto, Affordable, Flourishing, Fair, which sets out a comprehensive diagnosis of the country’s failing housing system. It also includes a 12-point programme to save and extend social housing by building 100,000 new social homes yearly. Shout concludes that direct investment in bricks and mortar will also reduce the £25bn annual housing benefit bill.

Since private housebuilders have recently acknowledged that it will be impossible to build 200,000 new homes annually, the public sector, through the provision of truly affordable homes, must play a greater role in meeting the UK’s housing needs. Only when the private, public and housing association sectors have all been building in concert have sufficient numbers of homes been built. As the chart below shows, the housebuilding peak was in 1968, when more than 400,000 homes were provided. The 200,000 homes a year bare minimum requirement has rarely been met since 1979 and only half that number are being built today.

housingA social housebuilding programme could be funded by removing or easing the current restrictions on council borrowing for housing, a significantly larger social housing grant programme for housing associations, and a robust regime for private developer contributions, such as section 106.

Alongside this, we need to stem the net loss of social rented homes through the Right to Buy, voluntary sales and conversions to ‘affordable rent’. Shout recommends that lost social rented homes should be replaced on a like for like basis in areas where housing need is demonstrable.

We also want to see the government set a target of surplus public land to be made available for social rented housing at low cost and develop robust mechanisms for releasing land and assembling sites in local areas. Any new towns or garden cities should contain a significant proportion of social rented housing.

The demonisation and stigmatisation of social tenants, exemplified by ‘Benefits Street’, must stop. Social renting should be viewed as a tenure of equal status to others. It meets needs that other tenures cannot and is a tenure of choice for millions of people. This choice should be acknowledged and supported. Politicians need to take the lead in affirming the positive value and purpose of social rented housing, and to challenge the way social housing and social tenants are portrayed.

Finally, Shout is campaigning for future governments to set out long-term strategies for housing, including supply, to bring stability and certainty to UK housing markets with the aim of improving affordability in all tenures. We believe that this long-term approach is crucial to tackle growing housing needs, to underpin a dynamic economy and to realise a society at ease with itself.



Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Steven Boxall
Steven Boxall
10 years ago

My recent blog on how to build more homes may be of interest.

The solution is simple but not simplistic:

Steven Boxall
Regeneration X

Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top