Time for a generational shift in housing policy to build, build, build social housing

An economic downturn, possibly a great depression is predicted for the UK. Boris Johnson’s disastrous speech says that he realises that the country needs to increase building. However, his answer is to recycle announcements and to let the market decide. If the loosening of planning rules leads to more residential development the quality, the sustainability and safety of these buildings is frankly questionable. Inside Housing found that critics of the policy say it allows developers to build homes well below space standards, remote from infrastructure or with insufficient natural light, as well as dodge affordable housing obligations.

There is another way. Housing campaigners, Shelter – where former Lewisham, Deptford MP Dame Joan Ruddock worked in the late 1960s – has proposed that there should be a historic renewal of social housing, with a 20-year programme to deliver 3.1 million more social homes.

Shelter say: “Today we are feeling the effects of 40 years of failure in housing policy. This crisis has seen a catastrophic decline in social housing, leaving millions in insecure and unaffordable rented homes – with home ownership an impossible dream, and increasing numbers of people tipped into homelessness.”

“If we continue as we are, only half of today’s young people are likely to ever own their own home – and a generation of younger people and many who are retired will spend their lives struggling with insecure, expensive renting. Over the next twenty years, hundreds of thousands more people will be forced into homelessness by insecure tenancies and sky-high housing costs. But if we act now, we can change this.”

Shelter have launched a petition calling for the Government to build social housing. In the housing sector definitions over tenure have become blurred and politicised. Affordable housing has been defined as up to 80% market rent. In London, commentators rightly point out that this is not ‘affordable’ to many.

Shelter have said recently: “Social rents are much cheaper than other so-called affordable tenures, such as London Affordable Rent. Looking at 2-bed properties once again, Shelter found that an average London Affordable Rent would cost £690 a month – nearly £200 more every month than an equivalent median social rent letting.”

“Only social rent delivery can meet the affordability needs of the private renters, workers, and homeless families at the sharpest end of London’s housing emergency. Yet despite a growing need, social homes in London have almost entirely disappeared over the past 10 years. Just 534 additional social homes were delivered in London last year – a decrease of 95% compared to 2011-12, in which more than 11,000 properties for social rent were delivered.”

Cllr Alan Hall has supported Shelter’s call for an economic boost to recovery by building social homes that local Lewisham people can afford. The preamble to the petition says:

The pandemic has shown the need for more, better quality, affordable homes – yet shocking new analysis predicts the pandemic will see 84,000 fewer homes delivered this year, with a 30% drop in social housing being built.

As a country, we can do better. A more resilient future is possible by putting social housing at the heart of our recovery. We need good quality, secure homes to get back on our feet.

The time for change is now. Join us and call on the government builds social homes to boost housebuilding, support construction jobs, and begin to deliver the stable, genuinely affordable homes this pandemic has shown us people are urgently waiting for.

Cllr Alan Hall has supported Shelter’s call for an economic boost to recovery by building social homes that local Lewisham people can afford, he says: “Build, build, build social homes for an economic recovery in Lewisham, London and beyond.

Sign the petition here

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