Tuesday, 10 October 2017

"Why the new £2bn council house promise won't fix the social housing crisis"

There are some excellent social housing projects happening - thanks to local authorities:
Social housing schemes for two Teignbridge villages proposed - Devon Live

But not very much is coming from central government - despite appearances:

"I can announce that we will invest an additional £2bn in affordable housing, taking the government’s total affordable housing budget to almost £9bn.

We will encourage councils as well as housing associations to bid for this money and provide certainty over future rent levels. And in those parts of the country where the need is greatest, allow homes to be built for social rent, well below market level."

Affordable‘ housing is property where rent is 80% of the market rate. ‘Social‘ housing is property set at government-defined rents with a secure tenancy. And “encouraging” councils and housing associations to bid for money is not a guarantee of more council or social houses. So, May’s words seem to be more spin than substance...

While all eyes were on Theresa May, the government just quietly bunged £2.5m to her mates | The Canary
Affordable/social housing? Think again: it’s the developers gaining yet again | East Devon Watch

Young people are not impressed:
My generation needs a housing revolution, not May’s empty promises | Dawn Foster | Opinion | The Guardian

Here is what the non-partisan website Public Finance has to say:

It’s time to revive rent controls

Seb Klier 6 Oct 17

Rent controls are common across Europe and a levy on excessive rents could help generate revenue to build more social housing, says Generation Rent’s Seb Klier

Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at this year’s Labour Party conference, where he committed to introducing rent controls if elected to power, brought back into public debate one of housing’s great controversies. For while rent control continues to confuse and divide the housing sector, politicians, and commentators, it is an enduringly popular policy amongst the general public...

It’s time to revive rent controls | Public Finance

And here's the view from Cornwall - which has clear parallels for other rural counties:

Why Theresa May's new £2bn council house promise won't fix Cornwall's social housing crisis

In Cornwall there are around 20,000 people on the waiting list for social housing

Mike Smallcombe
10 OCT 2017

Last week the Prime Minister promised to spend an additional £2 billion on affordable homes as the Government tries to get a grip on the country's housing crisis. The UK housing market is currently failing millions of people, producing far too few homes at prices they can't afford.

During her ill-fated Conservative Party conference speech on Wednesday, Theresa May pledged to dedicate her premiership to fixing the "broken" housing market by providing a new generation of council houses. But what does this mean for counties like Cornwall, where tens of thousands of people are on the waiting list for social housing?

The £2bn top-up package will take the total for the Government’s five-year affordable homes programme between 2016 and 2021 to £9.1bn.

But sceptics say Cornwall and other rural authorities will barely benefit from the deal because the Government will target the places worst affected by the affordability crisis, such as London and the South East. After the numbers were crunched, it swiftly emerged that the extra £2bn will only pay for 5,000 more affordable homes a year around the country.

For local authorities such as Cornwall Council this would mean an extra 10 to 20 council houses a year. Putting that into perspective, in Cornwall alone there are about 20,000 people on the waiting list for social housing. This figure doesn’t include more than 10,000 people who have been dumped from the council house waiting list in Cornwal because they have not checked-in recently.

Mrs May vowed that “help is on its way” for people who have been either waiting for years on housing lists, first-time buyers or those renting privately.

One Cornwall MP, Sarah Newton, says the extra funding offers “real hope” for more council houses in the county “if Cornwall Council works constructively with the Government to secure the new funding”.

The National Housing Federation, which represents social housing providers, says the £2bn investment will “make a real difference”.

But housing experts, charities and rival politicians say the figure of proposed new homes is far too low.

Labour said the policy “paled into insignificance” when compared to its own plans to launch “the biggest council house building programme for 30 years”. The figure of 5,000 new homes a year, the party says, would help just 5% of the people who have been waiting for social housing for five years.

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter said £2bn would not go a long way to helping the 1.2 million families in England waiting for a council house - a statistic it said represented "an enormous amount of human suffering".

So what happens next?

Local authorities across the country will first need to decide how much they want to bid for before applying for a portion of the £9.1bn funding pot. But figures provided by the Government suggest rural authorities such as Cornwall Council are unlikely to be prioritised.

The Government said the subsidy for council housing equates to about £80,000 per house, which housing associations said was considerably higher than needed in all but the most expensive areas. That suggests the council housing part of the investment will be targeted at the places worst affected by the affordability crisis, such as London and the South East, where market rates are significantly higher.

Cornwall Council Labour group leader Tim Dwelly is a county councillor in Penzance, where the social housing need is greatest. He says that while extra cash for housing is welcomed, the figure of £2bn is by no means a “game changer. Compared to what previous Labour Governments have been investing, and even the Tories in the early 1990s, this is peanuts,” he said.

“The fascinating thing is that these are effectively Labour policies, which suggests the Conservatives are running scared of Labour proposals, it smacks of panic. I won’t be afraid to say that I welcome the Tories admitting defeat on housing, and that they recognise that the best way ahead is the way Labour proposes. But, giving a local example, we have close to 1,000 people on the waiting list for housing just in the Penzance area alone, which is the highest need in Cornwall.

“We are talking about a big, big problem. In Penzance East and Central, 17.5% of all homes are statistically overcrowded. I know, as a councillor, that there are children going to school unable to do their homework because they are living in their living rooms. Yet we have some councillors still arguing against new homes being built, even though they know those sites will build affordable homes. It is time for people in Cornwall who care about this issue to get behind new homes.”

With housing charities insisting the extra cash was just “a fraction” of what’s needed, it would appear more needs to be done to end the "suffering" of more than one million people. "It will need to be the start, rather than the end," Shelter charity CEO Polly Neate said.

Why Theresa May's new £2bn council house promise won't fix Cornwall's social housing crisis - Cornwall Live

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