Housing

Spend big on social housing at Budget to ‘build back better’, urges Shelter

Housing charity Shelter joins forces with big businesses to call for social housing investment at Budget to create homes and jobs

Social housing building site

Britain needs to get building to boost jobs and end homelessness, warns housing charity Shelter. Image credit: Scott Blake/Unsplash

A big investment in social housing at Wednesday’s Budget would give both the housing and jobs markets and the wider economy a boost, claims Shelter, in an open letter to the Prime Minister.

The housing charity wrote to Boris Johnson just days ahead of Rishi Sunak’s vital financial statement where the Chancellor will lay out the next stage of his Plan for Jobs.

Shelter’s letter urged spending on social housing will be vital to “build a better tomorrow” and has the backing of big businesses including NatWest, Nationwide Building Society and energy provider E.ON. It read: “The coming months will be a crucial time for business and government to work closely together, but it is also a time when we must be honest about what building blocks our country needs to build back better.”

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Shelter has long called on the Westminster Government to focus on social housing in a bid to end the housing crisis and provide a platform to end homelessness. The charity’s Social Housing Commission called for 3.1 million social homes to be built over 20 years back in January 2019.

A total of 57,644 affordable homes were delivered between April 2019 and March 2020, according to government figures. That is far below both Shelter’s annual target as well as the National Housing Federation’s goal of 145,000 social homes per year.

The government’s answer has been the new Affordable Homes Programme announced last year. The £11.5 billion programme is set to provide 180,000 new homes across the country over the next five years, including 32,000 social rent homes – the most affordable band of social housing and the most sought after in the bid to end homelessness.

A government spokesperson told The Big Issue: “We’re also investing over £12 billion over five years, the largest investment in a decade, to provide up to 180,000 new homes – with half for affordable and social rent.”

Read the letter in full below.

“Dear Prime Minister 

Re: Urgent Investment in Social Housing 

Last year home was a place of safety and security for millions of us, and this has been particularly apparent as we’ve talked to our colleagues from their kitchen’s tables, living rooms and their bedrooms. Sadly, however, a decent, affordable and safe home isn’t available to everyone and more than a quarter of a million people in England currently homeless and living in temporary accommodation. 

This is something we can change, but to do that will require action from government. And central to this action must be an ambitious plan to dramatically increase the supply of social rented housing at this year’s budget. 

Unless this step is taken now, we risk yet more Christmas Days where more than 100,000 children wake up homeless. 

The value of such investment is also wider than putting roofs over the heads of those that need them. It can play a vital role in boosting our economy and delivering the government’s ambitions to level-up and to usher in a Green Industrial Revolution. 

As businesses we want to see the economy grow. But we also know that if we want growth to mean opportunities and benefit for existing communities then certain things are needed to make that happen – chief among them access to housing people can afford. 

With research suggesting that as many as 250,000 jobs are at risk from a collapse in housebuilding it is also clear that the time to act is now. 

We believe there is a clear need to improve the quality of homes that people live in, making them energy efficient and low carbon to meet our net zero goals, as well as cheaper to run and healthier to live in. Shelter research during the coronavirus lockdown has shown that 56 per cent of renters experienced problems with the condition of their existing home. 

We need to address these issues across all types of tenure, but social housing can lead the way through a new programme focussed on the construction of homes built to the highest standards. This will protect and create jobs and increase productivity by providing opportunities for skills training as we pursue the innovation that is needed to bring our buildings firmly into the 21st century. 

The coming months will be a crucial time for business and government to work closely together, but it is also a time when we must be honest about what building blocks our country needs to build back better. 

Investing in social housing today is a vital part of building a better tomorrow.”

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