• Kevin Murphy

Britain & Scotland: Affordable Housing Updates

The shortage of homes particularly affordable homes has been a challenge for local councils and previous government schemes. Announced earlier this month is a new cross-party commission for the government to provide 3.1 million new social homes in the UK over the next 20 years. The program would cost £213 billion, or £10.7billion per year in a cost analysis by Capital Economics in a report in the Financial Times (FT). The goal is to provide for those not only looking for housing but those who are renters of private homes.

Office for Budget Responsibility in the FT reports that the total housing benefit spending for 2018-19 will reach £23.4bn, or 2.9 per cent of public spending.

Speaking to the FT Lord Jim O’Neill who is a participant on the commission said:

“There needs to be a profound shift to see social housing as a national asset like any other infrastructure. A home is the foundation of individual success in life, and public house building can be the foundation of national success."

“It is the only hope the government has of hitting its 300,000 homes-a-year target.”

The 16 commissioners include Edward Daffarn, a survivor of the Greenfell Tower fire disaster in London, Labour party leader Ed Miliband and the leader of the the think tank Class Faiza Shaheen. For the Conservative party the commission includes Sayeeda Warsi, Jim O’Neill andRyan Shorthouse, director of the Tory think-tank Bright Blue.

Capital Economics in its analysis expects that the programme would reach a financial break even point in 39 years with home deliveries by local housing associations and authorities.

The shortage of housing is hardly new in Britain as supply continues to not keep pace with local demands. Shelter, the housing organisation, estimates that there are almost 280,000 homeless in the UK with more now sleeping rough in the streets of cities and towns. The organisation also reports that this point almost half of young people will not be able to purchase a home of their own.

Labour party leader Ed Miliband in the Guardian:

“The time for the government to act is now."

“We have never felt so divided as a nation, but building social homes is a priority for people right across our country. It is the way we can restore hope, build strong communities and fix the broken housing market so that we can meet the needs and aspirations of millions of people.”

Also in the Guardian Sayeeda Warsi:

“Social mobility has been decimated by decades of political failure to address ourworsening housing crisis. Half our young people cannot buy and thousands face the horror of homelessness. Our vision for social housing presents a vital opportunity to reverse this decay. We simply cannot afford not to act.”

The government has previously a £9 billion affordable home scheme to deliver 250,000 homes by 2022 with a further £2 billion for social housing by 2028 according to James Brokenshire, the communities secretary. In a commission survey of 30,000 people a majority said the lack of social housing was their principle concern.

James Brokenshire says:

“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."

“We’ve asked tenants across the country for their views and the thousands of responses we’ve received will help us design the future of social housing. We’re also giving councils extra freedom to build the social homes their communities need and expect.”

The commissions proposals would be to assist 1.27 million people in need of housing and add 1.17 million homes for families who are unable to buy but are renting and an additional 690,000 homes for older private renters.

Scotland Funding Increase

Also increasing their contribution to affordable housing needs is Scotland where the government just announced £70 million in additional funds to build 50,000 new affordable homes by 2021. An original pledge was made in 2015 by first minister Nicola Sturgeon. For the 2019-2020 budget Scotland will invest £826 million for affordable housing.

Aileen Campbell, the communities secretary, tells Inside Housing:

“At the heart of our ambition for a fairer Scotland is that everyone has access to a safe, warm and affordable place to call home."

“This increased budget forms part of the single biggest investment in, and delivery of, affordable housing since devolution with over £3bn committed, which will deliver good quality, secure and affordable homes, which will in turn help create strong, sustainable communities."

“We have set an ambitious target to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes over the course of this parliament, including 35,000 for social rent and are making good progress towards that. By ensuring councils and housing associations have financial certainty, we are confident that this commitment can be fulfilled.”

Sally Thomas, chief executive of The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations:

“While we welcome the Scottish government’s funding of £826 million, which is part of its commitment to build 50,000 affordable homes, we would urge the government, and all political parties, to commit to a longer-term programme of delivery beyond the lifetime of this parliament."

“It is vital that the post-2021 Affordable Housing Supply Programme maintains the existing levels of funding to meet outstanding and future need. As well as longer-term funding, it is equally important that we ensure we have the right homes in the right places to meet people’s needs and aspirations.”

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