Let's house the nation
APSE and the TCPA have called for a radical new approach to renew the quality and availability of social housing in the UK. Following publication of a joint research report ‘Housing the Nation: Ensuring councils can deliver more and better homes’ they argue that by investing in social housing the new Government can help to convert housing benefits into bricks; create a new basis for social housing renewal, and bring jobs, skills and regeneration to local communities.
Whilst in the post war years the public and private sector achieved the delivery of over 300,000 new homes per year, with around 90,000 of those homes being built by local councils, since the late 1970’s figures have dramatically declined. In 2013 just over 2000 new council homes were delivered with only a 1,000 of those new council houses being built in England. The report also finds that over four decades successive governments have had to meet increasingly larger bills for housing benefit payments, whilst neglecting to address the root cause of rent increases, which is the lack of supply of social housing.
The research also found that 53% of local authorities surveyed from across England identified the viability test in the National Planning Policy Framework as negatively impacting on their ability to deliver affordable and social homes, compared with just 14% who felt the viability test helped. These figures suggest that the UK Government should reframe the viability test in a more balance way. Over two thirds of council’s surveyed also stated that their dominant model of delivering social and affordable housing is currently through the planning process via developer contributions which raises serious questions for the new Government about whether the developer-contribution model of funding social and affordable housing, via planning obligations, remains a policy objective, and if not, where is the replacement investment going to come from
Speaking at the launch of the report, which explored housing issues on a UK wide basis Paul O’Brien, Chief Executive of APSE said “We should not underestimate the impact of lack of supply of social housing on market rents. This adds pressure to both local and central government finances. To rebalance the social housing market we need an ambitious programme of bringing new social housing schemes to fruition. Local councils need to be at the heart of delivering new high quality and affordable homes for rent. It is possible to achieve this but we need Westminster to share that ambition.”
Kate Henderson, Chief executive of the TCPA added “The new Government has an enormous opportunity to help ensure councils can once again play a full and active role in planning, delivering and managing social and affordable homes. This will require strong political leadership, a progressive planning framework, genuinely empowering local authorities, reversing recent deregulatory changes, and enabling councils to borrow to build.
The report puts forward a number of recommendations including:-
APSE is the Association for Public Service, a not-for-profit organisation working with over 300 councils throughout the UK providing advice, support and research on frontline local government services.
TCPA is the Town and Country Planning Association; Britain's oldest charity concerned with planning, housing and the environment. TCPA campaigns for the reform of the UK’s planning system to make it more responsive to people’s needs and aspirations and to promote sustainable development.
An executive summary of the report for press use is available upon request.