Social Housing Green Paper is a small step in the right direction

August 14, 2018 / Isla MacFarlane
Social Housing Green Paper is a small step in the right direction

The Social Housing Green Paper aims to rebalance the relationship between residents and landlords, tackle stigma and ensure that social housing can be both a stable base that supports people when they need it and support social mobility.

Residents across the country were asked for their views on social housing; almost 1,000 tenants shared their views with ministers at 14 events across the country, with over 7,000 submitting their opinions, issues and concerns online.The consultation launched with the green paper gives everyone the opportunity to submit views on proposals for the future of social housing and will run until 6 November 2018.

The green paper sets out 5 core themes:

  • Tackling stigma and celebrating thriving communities;
  • Expanding supply and supporting home ownership;
  • Effective resolution of complaints;
  • Empowering residents and strengthening the regulator;
  • Ensuring homes are safe and decent.

Secretary of State for Communities, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, said, “There is not enough social housing being built, where will my children live? They cannot afford a mortgage and private renting is too expensive with no security.”

“In line with our commitment to deliver 300,000 homes per year by the mid-2020s, we’re putting in place processes to support the building of more social housing.

“The paper outlines plans to build on the new borrowing capacity granted to local authorities by exploring new flexibilities on how they spend the money from homes sold under the Right to Buy scheme, and not requiring them to sell off vacant, higher value stock.

“We’re also building on partnerships with housing associations to boost the supply of new affordable homes by considering the benefits of providing funding certainty to some housing associations over a longer period. We are looking at reforms to help people using affordable home ownership schemes – like shared ownership – to build up more equity in their homes.”

While the sentiment is welcome, the practicalities remain questionable. Mark Farmer, CEO at Cast, said, “The recommendations of the social housing green paper are further evidence that the government understands the severity of the housing crisis and the need to increase the delivery of high quality new homes.

“However, tackling the housing crisis head-on needs much more focus on delivering affordable homes in appropriate locations with appropriate social and physical infrastructure that can generate sustainable communities. This can only be achieved by bringing forward more public land for development and diversifying our housing market both in terms of tenure offering and methods of production. There is a unique opportunity to use innovative homebuilding techniques as a stimulus for new forms of multi-skilled training, factory and site based employment and wider social value creation.”

According to Judith Blake, Local Government Association Housing spokesperson, the green paper won’t make a dent in the number of affordable homes that are needed unless the housing borrowing cap is demolished.

“This green paper is a step towards delivering more social homes but it is only a small step, compared with the huge and immediate need for more genuinely affordable homes,” she said. “There is a desperate need to reverse the decline in council housing over the past few decades.

“The government must go beyond the limited measures announced so far, scrap the housing borrowing cap, and enable all councils, across the country, to borrow to build once more. This would trigger the renaissance in council house-building which will help people to access genuinely affordable housing.

“We have long called for reforms to Right to Buy in order to allow councils to build more homes, and there are some positive signs in the consultation. But we must go much further so that councils can deliver the affordable homes that our residents need and deserve, including allowing councils to set discounts locally and to keep 100% of receipts from homes sold.

However, Ed Fowkes, development director at Prosperity Capital Partners, believes the new measures give local authorities the chance to get creative. He said, “As the government sets out plans to deliver affordable housing targets, local authorities should use this renewed flexibility to find smart ways of delivering quality social homes, improving the image of the sector and helping to address housing shortfall in key locations.”

Bjorn Howard, group CEO of Aster Group, pointed out that without new funding it will be difficult to cement the new measures. He concluded, “It’s pleasing to see the government recognise the role that shared ownership has to play in alleviating the housing crisis. We and other housing associations have highlighted the importance of this type of tenure in offering an aspirational and secure way for people to work towards their dream of owning their own home.

“It is disappointing, though, that the green paper doesn’t outline plans for any new investment. Significant funding is needed to ensure the most vulnerable in society are provided with good-quality homes.

“The release of the green paper in the middle of the summer recess means a meaningful debate on the issues raised will have to wait until MPs return to parliament next month. We hope it will be made a priority then.”

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