£12bn affordable homes plan fails to tackle social housing crisis, says Shelter

UK government £12bn boost for affordable homes must include more social housing, says Shelter.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that the prospectus inviting bids for the government’s £12bn investment in affordable housing are being launched this week.

However, although welcoming the news that the affordable homes plan points to more social housing being built than in the recent past, housing charity Shelter says the plan fails to tackle the social housing crisis at a time when over one million households are on social housing waiting lists.

The £12.2bn overall investment in affordable housing was confirmed at the budget, which also includes £700m on new homes through the 2016 to 2022 programme.

Ministers claim a new £11.5bn Affordable Homes Programme will be delivered over five years from 2021 to 2026, providing up to 180,000 new homes across the country, should economic conditions allow.

The programme, it is claimed, will unlock a further £38bn in public and private investment in affordable housing. New homes will be made available from next year.

The government claims that around half of the new homes will be available for affordable home ownership,  and the rest will be made available for discounted rent, including 10% for supported housing – to support those with physical or mental health challenges.

Nearly £7.5bn will be delivered outside London by Homes England, the government’s housing accelerator. The Greater London Authority has been offered £4bn and negotiations about what they will deliver with this funding are in progress.

Homes England will publish their Affordable Homes Programme prospectus this week, inviting councils, housing associations and private providers to start preparing their bids. New homes will be delivered from next year.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Thanks to the range of flexible ownership options being made available, more families across the country will be able to realise their dreams of owning their own home, with half of these homes being made available for ownership.

“As well as delivering homes for affordable ownership, the new programme will deliver homes for affordable and social rent. Funding for social rent, which is typically 50 to 60% of market prices, will be available to housing providers across the country, providing secure, affordable housing to families who need it most.”

Nick Walkley, chief executive of Homes England, said: “We welcome the launch of the new Affordable Homes fund, which gives Homes England a unique opportunity to work on behalf of the government to accelerate the delivery of high-quality, affordable homes. The fund will support improved productivity in construction and unlock new economic opportunities across the country. Despite the challenges of Covid-19, this long-term funding settlement gives our partners the confidence they need to invest in new homes and the communities they work for.”

However, housing charity Shelter pointed out that over a million households are currently on social housing waiting lists in England and that, in 96% of the country, someone on an average salary or lower could not afford to buy one of the government’s First Homes even with a 30% discount. 

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “With an unprecedented recession underway, major job losses on the horizon, and a housing emergency about to spin out of control, the government must invest more in social housing than its current plans allow for. Social homes are designed to be genuinely affordable, which is exactly what we need right now. Discounted home ownership schemes are not.  

“We welcome the fact that today’s plan points to more social homes being built than we’ve seen in the past. But achieving the step change we need to deal with the scale of crisis that we face will require the government to go further, faster. In five years it will be too late, the government must ringfence enough money and spend it on social homes now.”

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