Renaissance in council housebuilding needed

Local government leaders are calling for a national renaissance in council housebuilding to help fix the UK’s chronic housing shortage. July 6, 2016 / Isla MacFarlane
Renaissance in council housebuilding needed

The economic uncertainty facing housebuilders following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union could make it difficult for private developers to rapidly build enough homes on their own, according to Local Government Association.

Four million working people will need access to some type of affordable housing even if the country achieves full employment by 2024, new research published by the Local Government Association shows.

Local government leaders are insisting a “national renaissance” in council housebuilding must be central to solving Britain’s chronic housing shortage, and for delivering the mix of different homes that meet the growing and changing needs of communities.

The last time the country was building more than the 250,000 houses the nation currently needs was in 1977-78 – when councils built 44 per cent of new homes.

Private developers in England have only been able to build an average of 90,000 a year since 2009/10. In 2013/14, this represented 77 per cent of all new houses. In comparison, councils were only able to build one per cent of all new homes in the same year.

Cllr Peter Box, LGA Housing spokesman, said, “National and local government must come together around our joint ambition to build homes and strong, inclusive communities. A renaissance in house building by councils must be at the heart of this bold new action. The private sector clearly plays a crucial role but it cannot build the homes we need on its own, and will likely be further restricted by uncertainties in the months and years ahead.

“The focus of councils is beyond bricks and mortar. Investment in housing has significant wider benefits and we want to build the right homes in the right places that can generate growth and jobs, help meet the needs of our ageing population, and provide the infrastructure, schools and hospitals that enable communities to thrive.”

At present, for every £1 spent on house building by the Government, roughly £4 is spent on housing benefit, Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders pointed out. “By increasing public spend on house building, homes will become more affordable and at the same time, significantly decrease the housing benefit bill.

“With uncertainty beginning to weigh on the private sector, as evidenced by the negative construction statistics released earlier this week, support for a significant upscaling in social house building would send out a strong, reassuring message. Prevention is better than the cure and we believe that a commitment by the Government to crank up its programme of council house building would serve to ease any jitters in the building industry and the wider economy.”

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