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Millions more homes needed to tackle social housing crisis

A housing charity has called for the Government to spend £214 billion on creating three million new homes to solve the social housing crisis.

In the wake of the Grenfell disaster, Shelter brought together 16 independent commissioners from across the political spectrum to write a report on the issue.

Entitled Building For Our Future: A Vision For Social Housing, it urges ministers to invest in a major 20-year housebuilding programme and massively extend the criteria for who is applicable for social housing.

The report recommends building 1.27 million homes for “those in greatest housing need”, including homeless households, the disabled and long-term ill, or those living in very poor conditions.

It also wants the Government to create 1.17 million homes for what it calls “trapped renters”, younger families unable to get on the housing ladder, as well as 690,000 homes for older private renters who face housing insecurity beyond retirement.

The authors of the report, who include former Labour leader Ed Miliband, ex-Tory chairman Baroness Warsi, Baroness Lawrence, mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, TV architect George Clarke and Grenfell survivor Ed Daffarn, spent a year speaking to hundreds of social tenants, more than 30,000 members of the public as well as housing experts.

Their findings suggest it would require an average yearly investment of £10.7 billion to pay for the new homes, but analysis by economic experts suggests up to two-thirds of this could be recouped through “housing benefit savings and increased tax revenue each year”.

The charity said that, on this basis, the true net additional cost to the Government would be about £3.8 billion on average per year over the 20-year period.

Baroness Warsi said: “Social mobility has been decimated by decades of political failure to address our worsening housing crisis.

“Our vision for social housing presents a vital political opportunity to reverse this decay. It offers the chance of a stable home to millions of people, providing much needed security and a step up for young families trying to get on in life and save for their future.”

Mr Miliband said: “The time for the Government to act is now. We have never felt so divided as a nation, but building social homes is priority for people right across our country.

“This is a moment for political boldness on social housing investment that we have not seen for a generation.

“It is the way to restore hope, build strong communities, and fix the broken housing market so that we meet both the needs and the aspirations of millions of people.”

Other suggestions in the report, which will be presented to Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday, include creating an Ofsted-style consumer regulator to protect residents in social housing and private renting, a new national tenants’ voice organisation and improved national standards in maintaining publicly-owned homes.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said: “Providing quality and fair social housing is a priority for this Government and our Social Housing Green Paper seeks to ensure it can both support social mobility and be a stable base that supports people when they need it.”

He added: “Our ambitious £9 billion affordable homes programme will deliver 250,000 homes by 2022, including homes for social rent. A further £2 billion of long-term funding has already been committed beyond that as part of a 10-year home-building programme through to 2028.

“We’re also giving councils extra freedom to build the social homes their communities need and expect.”

Source: Shropshire Star

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Labour hits out as ministers admit just 5% of new ‘affordable’ homes will be in cheapest category

Only five percent of new homes funded under a government scheme will be of the most affordable kind, it has been revealed.

Prime Minister Theresa May has previously pledged to build “new generation of social homes”, which are pegged to local incomes to keep them affordable.

However, responding to a parliamentary question from Labour, Housing Secretary James Brokenshire said: “The £9bn Affordable Homes Programme will deliver at least 250,000 homes by March 2022.

“At least 12,500 of these will be for social rent outside of London. The Greater London Authority has the flexibility to deliver social rent in London.”

The remaining 237,500 homes not set for social rent outside of London are likely to be at the more expensive “affordable” housing rent, which are available to let at 80 percent of their market value.

Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary condemned the revelation as “not good enough”.

Speaking to the Independent – which first reported on the figures – John Healey said: “There’s been a disastrous fall in the number of new genuinely affordable homes for social rent under the Conservatives.

We are now building over 30,000 fewer social rented homes a year than when I was Labour’s last housing minister in 2010.

“Ministers’ flawed definition of ‘affordable housing’ includes homes for sale at up to £450,000 and to let at 80 per cent of market rents, so it’s just not good enough for ministers to only commit a tiny fraction of the affordable homes budget to new social rented homes.”

Housing and homelessness charities also made their concerns public.

Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes told the Independent: “It is very disappointing to see such a tiny proportion of the properties to be delivered through the Affordable Homes Programme being made available for social rent.

“Research shows we need 90,000 social homes built every year for the next 15 years to meet demand – both for those experiencing homelessness, and for those on low incomes, many of whom are at risk of homelessness.”

But Housing Minister Kit Malthouse said governments “of all stripes” had built “too few homes of all types, including for affordable and social rent”.

He added: “We’re correcting this with massive investment in house building, including the £9bn affordable homes programme, but also by setting councils free to build the social homes their communities need.

“We expect many thousands of new homes to result and we share the impatience of the British people to see decent homes built for the next generation.”

Source: Politics Home

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What’s happening to rented social housing in England?

Social housing is low cost rented housing and low cost home ownership for people who may not be able to access the private market. It includes council housing and homes provided by housing associations. In this piece we’ll be focusing on rented accommodation available in the social housing sector.

Housing is a devolved issue so the UK government only has responsibility for England, and statistics for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are published separately.

The amount of social housing for rent is slowly rising

Over four million homes were rented from councils or housing associations in 2017. Of these, 1.6 million were council homes and 2.4 million were from housing associations.

The amount of social housing for rent fell from the peak of around five million in the early 1980s to just under four million in the mid-2000s, but it has been slowly rising since.

This has mainly been driven by an increase in housing association homes. The proportion of all social housing provided by councils has generally been falling since the 1980s.

social housing

Homes for rent from councils and housing associations made up 17% of all homes (including owner-occupied homes) in 2017.

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New social homes are more likely to be at the higher end of affordable rents

Around 5,000 new homes were built for social rent in England in 2017/18, and another 1,000 or so were bought or converted. These “social rent” levels are around 50% of market prices.

There were another 24,000 newly built homes for affordable rent and around 2,000 bought or converted. Affordable rent is subject to controls that make it around 80% of local market rent. The government includes “affordable rent” homes in its definition of social housing.

The number of new properties at affordable rent level has outstripped the number of new homes at social rent levels since 2013/14. However, most new lettings are still at social rents.

social housing

There are also a small number of homes built or acquired for intermediate rent, which are available at “above social rent, but below market levels”, according to the House of Commons library. Homes available for intermediate rent are counted in the government’s definition of affordable homes.

Less than one percent of social housing was sold in 2016/17

Social housing is sold in several ways. The Right to Buy scheme for council housing is perhaps the most well-known, and there are similar schemes for tenants buying their home from housing associations.

Right to Buy schemes give some tenants who have lived in a council or housing association home for a number of years the right to buy their home at a discount.

Over 16,000 homes were sold under Right to Buy schemes in 2017/18. That’s 11% fewer than the year before, and well below the peak of 167,000 in 1982/83.

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In 2017/18 there were also around 5,000 other types of social housing sales. This brought total sales to nearly 21,000.

The Right to Buy one-for-one replacement target isn’t being met

When the government increased the discounts available through Right to Buy in 2012 they committed to one-for-one replacement of all the additional homes this policy sold within three years of the sale. That target isn’t being met.

The government calculated that around 21,000 extra homes were sold between April-June 2012 and the same period in 2015. Meanwhile only about 19,000 have been built or bought by local authorities since 2012.

Housing association rents are higher than what councils charge

The average weekly rent for council housing across England was about £87 in 2016/17. That figure includes both social rents and the higher affordable rents.

The most expensive average annual council house rent was in Westminster (£132 a week), the cheapest was Broxtowe, in Nottinghamshire (£67 a week).

social housing

In social housing provided by housing associations the average weekly rent was around £97 in March 2017.

Within these averages there is wide variation across the country. The highest was almost £140 per week in Newham, London, and the lowest (£73 per week) was in County Durham.

Another measure of average rents comes from the English Housing Survey. The median social renter paid £96 per week in 2016/17, while the median private renter paid £156 per week. ‘Median’ means that if we lined everyone up in order from those paying the highest to the lowest rent, the median renter would be stood in the middle.

More social housing is passing the decent homes test

There are four official criteria for a “decent home”:

  • It meets the current statutory minimum standard for housing.
  • It is in a reasonable state of repair.
  • It has reasonably modern facilities and services.
  • It has efficient heating and insulation.

There are two ways of measuring how many homes are decent: from information supplied by social housing landlords and by looking at what people tell a survey. Although both give different figures for the proportion of homes that aren’t in a decent condition, they show a similar trend.

Looking at all types of social homes the percentage that don’t qualify as decent homes has been falling since 2008. According to data supplied by councils and housing associations, the share of their homes that fail has fallen from 38% in 2002 to 2% in 2017.

The English Housing Survey, which inspects a sample of all homes, found 27% of social housing wasn’t of decent quality in 2008, falling to 13% in 2016.

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Ministers accused of abandoning thousands in need of social housing

Ministers have been accused of “abandoning thousands of people who need social housing” after charity Shelter revealed 33,000 working families are living in temporary accommodation in England.

The charity’s analysis suggested 55% of families living in temporary housing were working in 2017 — up 73% on 2013.

The charity blamed a mix of expensive private rents, a housing benefit freeze and a chronic lack of social housing.

The SNP’s housing spokesman, Alison Thewliss, blasted Housing Secretary James Brokenshire over the figures — telling him that “under this Government work no longer pays”.

Mr Brokenshire responded, telling MPs that the Government is committed to ensuring everyone has “a safe and decent place to live”, adding that more than £1.2 billion has been made available to support those left homeless and £9 billion has been pumped into social and affordable housing.

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Shadow housing secretary John Healey hit out at the explanation, saying: “This is a Government that’s had more than eight years to do the job and what the Government’s doing is not working.

“Home-ownership rose under Labour and has now hit a 30-year low under the Conservatives. You can’t just stoke prices with tax cuts and home-buyer loans; we need to build more low- cost homes to make home-ownership more affordable.”

Labour MP Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) said: “Thousands of people who desperately need social housing are being abandoned as this Government, which entirely pulls out of social housing.”

Mr Brokenshire hit out at Labour’s record and said he “entirely rejected the characterisation” of the Government’s record.

He added: “We are dealing with what has been a broken housing market, something that has existed over many, many years on that lack of investment.

“That is why this Government is committed to investing £44 billion into the home-building agenda in the coming years, something that is about transforming life chances.”

Source: Shropshire Star

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Britain could end homelessness in a decade, claims new report

Homelessness in Britain could be eradicated within 10 years with the correct measures in place, according to a report.

Government policies needed to end homelessness have been set out in a report by charity Crisis called Everybody In: How To End Homelessness In Great Britain.

The plan has been endorsed by experts in the US, Canada and Finland, who are leading successful movements to end homelessness in their countries, Crisis said.

The report follows work with the Chartered Institute of Housing, Heriot-Watt University, the National Housing Federation, and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC).

The plan says that a national roll-out of Housing First would benefit more than 18,000 homeless people, by providing homes that come with a package of specialised support.

The plan also sets out the policies needed to support people once they are housed, including better rights and longer tenancies for private renters, and reforming housing benefits.

Ending homelessness will also require hospitals, prisons, the care system, and other parts of the state to play a role, the research finds.

Crisis said these organisations should be legally required to help prevent people leaving their care from becoming homeless.

The plan also proposes that job centres have homelessness specialists.

PwC found that, over the next decade, these policies would cost £9.9 billion and deliver benefits worth £26.4 billion, Crisis said.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “For the first time ever, we have a comprehensive plan that shows exactly how we can address the root causes of homelessness and make it a thing of the past.

“Other parts of the world are taking huge strides towards ending it, and Britain can too.

“We must not become a society that simply accepts homelessness as ‘a sad fact of life’, because the good news is that we know it doesn’t have to be this way.”

This includes people living on the streets, in cars and tents, or in unsuitable temporary accommodation.

Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s Housing spokesman, said: “It is essential that all councils are able to borrow to build new homes and adapt welfare reforms to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place.

“A genuine renaissance in council housebuilding would increase housing supply, boost home ownership and reduce homelessness.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it was committed to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping, working with charities like Crisis.

“We are investing more than £1.2 billion to tackle all forms of homelessness and just last week we announced £30 million for councils to help boost the immediate support available to people living on the streets.

“We are also investing £9 billion to build more affordable homes and are piloting the Housing First approach in three major regions to get people off the streets and into stable accommodation.”

Source: Herald Scotland

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Social housing stock has fallen over the last 30 years

The size of the social housing sector has been decreasing over time.

The proportion of the population living in social housing in Great Britain halved between the early 1980s and early 2010s, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The IFS puts this down to two key developments: the introduction of Right to Buy in 1980, which gave tenants the ability to buy their council houses at below market rates, and a general drop in the amount of social housing being built.

The number of homes for rent from councils or housing associations in the UK has been decreasing from a peak of around seven million in the early 1980s to just under five million in 2014.

In contrast the number of homes available for private rental has increased from around two million to over five million.

Social housing usually refers to homes rented at sub-market levels by councils and housing associations. “Social rent” levels are around 50% of market levels. The government also includes “affordable rent” homes in its definition of social housing, these are up to 80% of market levels.

There were around 5,000 homes for social rent built or acquired in England in 2016/17 compared to 24,000 for affordable rent.

Affordable rent properties were first introduced in 2011 and since then their number has increased significantly while the number of social rent properties has decreased.

Source: Full Fact