On 14th August the government green paper on social housing was released for consultation. Yet despite ongoing appeals from local government across the political spectrum it fails to make progress on the need to deliver affordable houses and in particular social housing. Figures show that since 2007/08, the number of homes let for social rent has fallen from 366,820 to 334,602.
According to a June 2018 report from Homes England (the government’s housing agency, and the regulator of social housing providers in England), the number of affordable housing “starts”* nationally has decreased from around 38,000 to around 28,000. Between 2010 and 2018 and the number of completions has dwindled from 41,000 to 26,000 in the same period.
So what does Affordable Housing mean? Most of the time it is translated as homes which can be rented or purchased at up to 80 per cent of market value yet 80% is not particularly affordable on a £450,000 home.
What’s actually needed are more socially rented homes, which are typically available to families at about 50 per cent of the market rate.
The Chief Executive of the charity Shelter, Polly Neate, agrees that there just aren’t enough social homes available to rent, and the homes sold off through Right to Buy are not being replaced fast enough.
“With rising numbers of working people unable to afford their rent, more than a million on council waiting lists and rising numbers of homeless families stuck in temporary accommodation, we very obviously need to urgently increase the number of social homes available.”
If we focus on Basildon, the Homes England report shows a table of each local authority’s house building stats.
- In Basildon during 2017/18, out of 250 total housing starts*, only 15 were for affordable housing.
- In 2015/16 only 41 affordable homes were completed out of 114. The rest were for private market sale.
- 2016/17 there is further reduction to 14 completions out of 123 and …
- In 2017/18 only 12 affordable homes built out of 109 total build.
It’s important to remember these stats are Homes England Indicators and represent affordable housing which may or may not include social housing.
So why is Basildon Council not investing enough in social housing? The answer is, as with many issues, Conservative cuts. The Conservatives have placed limitations on how councils can fund social housing building. Yet it is clear that councils need to have government restrictions on borrowing removed, enabling them to borrow more in order to deliver hundreds of thousands of new council houses.
Judith Blake CBE is the Labour Leader of Leeds City Council and the Local Government Association’s housing spokesperson: “The government must go beyond the limited measures announced so far, scrap the housing borrowing cap, and enable all councils across the country to borrow to build once more. This would trigger the renaissance in council housebuilding which will help people to access genuinely affordable housing.”
Until the government removes the cap on borrowing, building much needed council homes will continue at a dwindling pace. Many of our residents are not in a position to start a mortgage and so the goal of home ownership remains out of reach. There are some opportunities to enter into Shared Ownership arrangements but not enough. If we want homes locally for our children and grandchildren to live in, then this Government needs to listen to local concerns. Unfortunately, they are not listening, as is clearly demonstrated in the Social Housing Green paper.
The Labour Party listens, understands the issues and pledges to take action.
Not only will Labour build new homes, including council homes, but it will be a main priority for a future Labour Government. We will stop the sell-off of 50,000 social rented homes a year, by suspending the right to buy, ending all conversions to ‘affordable rent’ and scrapping the Government’s plans to force councils to sell the best of their homes.
Labour will give councils and housing associations new funding, powers and flexibilities to build again. Above all, Labour will ensure housing is about homes for the many, not investment opportunities for the few.
“The next Labour government will build at least 100,000 genuinely affordable homes a year, including the biggest council house building programme in over thirty years.” – John Healey MP, Shadow Housing Secretary.