Ministers have set a target of 300,000 new homes per year by 2025. The volume of social housing created since the announcement in 2017 has stayed in the low thousands. It will take a funding uplift of £10bn a year to get the social housing initiative on track. This stands while the Government focuses on cutting red tape for developers to build office conversion homes which promise no benefit to communities in need – read part one of our investigation here.
Even pre-pandemic figures showed a system at breaking point. The number of households living in temporary accommodation like B&Bs and hostels soared by 82 per cent in the past decade, with the number of rough sleepers shooting up by 165 per cent in the same period. It is a social housing revolution that will pull the nation out of crisis after Covid-19, experts say – not the easing up of planning permissions to make homes out of offices and shops.
Councils and social housing providers are “at the limits of what can be achieved” on current budgets, the Government’s housing select committee said in a report earlier this month. They see some solutions. For instance, the Government could reduce the public spending required if it used public land to build on instead of selling it for revenue. And local authorities should be allowed to keep the entirety of receipts from Right to Buy homes too, according to the MPs, to make it affordable for them to create replacement social housing.
Reducing planning standards just won’t cut it for the thousands of families on long waiting lists for social homes, the National Housing Federation (NHF) told The Big Issue.
“There is a desperate need for a new generation of social housing in this country,” NHF head of policy Rob Wall said. “The only way to achieve this is through a once-in-a-generation investment in building new social homes. Other reforms, like cutting planning regulations, won’t have the same impact – in fact, these could even make it harder to provide the high-quality affordable homes that are needed across the country.
He added: “By investing in social housing, ministers would not only help millions of people find a decent home that they can afford – they would also deliver on their ambition to ‘build, build, build’.”