Housing

Two-thirds of government's £4.2bn housebuilding fund remains unspent – so we spent it for them

Despite a raging housing crisis, the government has taken six years to spend just a third of the Housing Infrastructure Fund. Here's a better use for the money

There's £2.9bn going spare, and we've got some ideas. Image: Unsplash

The UK desperately needs more houses. So when the government promised a £4.2bn Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) in 2017, it seemed money was meeting need, and the housing crisis might be quelled.

If only. Just a third of the fund has been spent in the six years since the HIF launched, amid complaints that tight rules and poor economic conditions are making life difficult. It was supposed to deliver 270,000 homes – a target the Tories have repeatedly failed to hit.

So let’s spend the remaining two thirds for the government, seeing as they’re struggling, and make moves to solve the housing crisis with the money in the bank. Here’s what they could do with this spare £2.9bn.

Just build some three-beds

Assuming 74 square metres at £1,900 a metre, it would roughly cost £140,600 to build an average three-bedroom house. With the spare money in the HIF we could build 20,000. Yes, it’s less than the scheme is intended to deliver, but it’d actually mean they are built.

Build 50,000 modular homes

Modular homes are ready to go, right out of the factory. They may not be bricks and mortar, but the dwellings have been key to helping rough sleepers off the streets and into a home of their own. A new project by the Hill Group, dubbed the Solohaus, has delivered 201 homes, including 38 in the London borough of Haringey.

At a base cost of £57,000, our £2.9bn could get us 50,800 of the Lego-like lodgings.

Retrofit 42,000 houses, creating energy-efficient housing

Retrofitting a house – as in, making improvements so it becomes more energy efficient – costs £69,000 on average. The investment not only saves residents money through reduced bills, but helps the UK reduce its carbon emissions.

With the spare money, we could get 42,000 properties up to scratch, saving money and the environment at the same time.

Pay off everyone’s energy debt

Unaffordable energy bills have left millions struggling to make ends meet. In December 2023, national energy debt reached £2.9bn. With the unspent housing funds we could pay it off and wipe the slate clean for everyone.

Restore the pandemic cut to the UK’s aid spending

As the pandemic hit the UK economy, the government cut the UK’s aid spending by £2.9bn in 2020. We could backdate that, and pay the missing money.

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