In 1966, the TV drama Cathy Come Home was described as being like 'an ice-pick in the brain of all who saw it' such were the hard-hitting messages of homelessness, poverty and despair. Sadly nearly 50 years later we are still plagued by housing shortages and homelessness. Cathy's despair didn't transfer into the political will to make homes for all a priority.
DCLG released quarterly figures on 21 May and yet again council house building is at the bottom of the pile with just 1,230 homes completed between April 2014 and March 2015 in England. Set these figures against the backdrop of some 1.7 M on council waiting lists in England, and it’s clear that housing remains an ongoing national crisis.
APSE, alongside the TCPA, will shortly launch our new research report ‘Housing the Nation: Ensuring councils can deliver more and better homes’ which explores why not enough homes are being built. It is a complex picture, but even with geographic differences taken into account, there are some over-arching problems; lack of supply, lack of funds, financial freedoms, and flexibilities for local councils. These are well rehearsed arguments but we offer some positive solutions alongside simply identifying the many factors that have led to the chronic shortage in council homes.
Our research is calling for a new deal on housing. We need strong political leadership to make this happen - not just from UK central administrations but from the bottom up at a local council level, council by council, city by city, and by our sub-regional levels through Combined Authorities.
We need a comprehensive approach to building homes on a scale not seen for decades. That means lifting the HRA borrowing cap, which will allow Council’s to invest in new stock; we need to urgently review Right to Buy to ensure that for every home lost to rent we are able to replace it with a new property; we need to ensure we have strategic coordination to identify and develop land for new homes to rent. Most of all we need high quality affordable homes that are seen as a choice for the many - not a safety net for the few.
David Cameron pledged at his first cabinet meeting of the new Government that this would be a Government for hard working families. What better way is there to support hard working families than to ensure that they, and their sons and daughters, can have an affordable quality home in which to live?