Social housing: a missed opportunity

Many of the difficult things councils have to help people with stem from bad housing. So the best way to fix any of those problems is to make sure everybody has a safe, secure, decent home.

That’s why the LGA believes a significant expansion in social housing is the single most important step the Government could take to help solve the housing crisis. It would add new supply quickly, support home ownership, reduce homelessness, and generate huge public service savings.

Unfortunately, the Government’s Social Housing Green Paper, published over the summer, showed a disappointing lack of ambition on this front.

“The Green Paper proposals are not sufficient on  their own to bring about a renaissance in council house building

There were some positive measures. We will be able to invest greater proportions of Right to Buy receipts into new homes, match receipts with the Affordable Housing Programme grant – and we won’t have to sell off our high-value council houses. Retaining local flexibilities on fixed-term tenancies is  also welcome.

But, right now, councils are housing 77,000 families and 125,000 homeless children in temporary accommodation, with a further million on waiting lists, and many more families struggling in expensive, less secure private rented housing.

The last time the country built enough homes, councils built 40 per cent of them. We need a renaissance in council building, led by a removal of borrowing restrictions, local retention of all Right to Buy sales receipts, and flexibility to set Right to Buy discounts.

The Social Housing Green Paper proposals are not sufficient on their own  to bring about this renaissance, which  will only be achieved by enabling councils to build the homes that their communities need. We will continue to press government to make the changes we want to see and hope that the Green Paper is a starting point for a more ambitious plan.

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