Housing

What is the government doing about the housing crisis?

Answer: Building lots of homes

The housing crisis is simple to define: there are not enough affordable homes to go around.

And the beauty of a simple problem is that there is a simple solution to it: build more homes.

The government has pledged to do just that by promising to build 300,000 homes every year by the mid-2020s. But this is where the simplicity ends. Just building homes is not enough, actually, it has to be the right kind of homes. The government, through new housing agency Homes England, centrally funded 42,652 housing starts in 2017-18 – up by four per cent on the previous year.

But the number that were classed as affordable fell by the same margin with 27,905 made compared to 29,130 last year.

It is a similar story for completed homes, with 33,471 delivered through Homes England last year, up from 31,057 12 months previously. But there was better news for completed affordable homes, which made up 77 per cent of the total. The government completed 25,841 homes, representing a 13 per cent rise on the 22,885 affordable homes delivered in 2016-17.

And, in fact, there are some doubts whether the 300,000 target from the government will fill the gap. The National Housing Federation insists that four million new homes are needed to solve the crisis – with 340,000 homes built every year up until 2031.

Getting shovels in the ground is only part of the government’s plan to fix the crisis – they are also bringing new legislation through parliament to reclaim empty homes.

The Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill aims to bolster existing powers to reduce the number of homes left without an occupier for two years or longer by doubling council tax rates.

By hitting the country’s two million landlords in their pockets with an increased charge, it is hoped that it will free up dwellings left to rot to turn them back into places to live. And the measures are certainly required with 20 per cent of UK households living in privately rented properties, according to the DWP’s Family Resources survey.

Just getting people on the housing ladder is a challenge in itself, with the scarcity of affordable homes driving up prices, while skyrocketing rents mean that the transition to home ownership is a fraught one.

To help this, the government abolished stamp duty for first-time buyers on homes worth less than £300,000 – although the move was criticised for having little positive impact. Theresa May and her government also offers Help to Buy and other affordable ownership schemes that are designed to trigger an influx of first home owners into the market.

Since launching in 2013, 158,883 equity loans have been granted through the scheme – 81 per cent of these have gone to first-time buyers, a total of 127,317. The scheme promises to boost your savings by 25 per cent if you’re saving up for a home. So, for every £200 you save, receive a government bonus of £50. The maximum government bonus you can receive is £3,000, with the initiative scheduled to run until 2020.

The Big Issue magazine launched in 1991 in response to the growing number of rough sleepers on the streets of London, by offering people the opportunity to earn a legitimate income through selling a magazine to the public. Twenty-five years on, our vendors come from a variety of backgrounds and face the myriad of problems associated with poverty and inequality.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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