Housing and homelessness charity Shelter has called for a major public housebuilding programme, as it reported that delivery of social homes in the North West has plummeted from 2,963 homes in 2009-10 to 519 in 2017-18.
Shelter said that more than 180,000 households are now on waiting lists for social housing. The organisation’s social housing commission, set up in the wake of the Grenfell fire in 2017, has launched a report calling for an ambitious 3.1m new homes across the country.
The report, Building for our future: a vision for social housing, recommends the government invests in a major 20-year housebuilding programme, which would offer a social home to millions who fail to qualify under the current system, including:
- 1.27m homes for those in greatest housing need – homeless households, those living with a disability or long-term illness, or living in very poor conditions.
- 1.17m homes for ‘trapped renters’ – younger families who cannot afford to buy and face a lifetime in expensive and insecure private renting.
- 690,000 homes for older private renters – people over 55 struggling with high housing costs and insecurity beyond retirement.
Former Treasury minister Lord Jim O’Neill is one of the commissioners. He 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 housebuilding 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 government’s budget for capital expenditure is £62bn a year – our housebuilding programme would cost only a fraction and is well within its financial reach. With current spending on housing benefit shockingly inefficient, it’s not hard to see what an investment in bricks and mortar could do to help solve the housing crisis and boost our economy.”
Capital Economics was engaged by the commission to analyse costs and benefits. The organisation said that the programme would require an average yearly investment of £10.7bn during the construction phase, but that up to two-thirds of that could be recouped through housing benefit savings and increased tax revenue each year, meaning an overall cost of £3.8bn over the 20 years, with the investment paid off after 39 years.
The report raises questions about the effectiveness of delivery mechanisms for social housing at present, and where responsibility lies for the shortfall. Liverpool City Council is among the local authorities attempting to speed delivery, setting up the Foundations housing company with Lovell.
Shelter’s report can be read in full here.