Theresa May spoke for the first time at the National Housing Federation in September 2018, where she pledged an extra £2bn over ten years to build more affordable homes. As expected, her declaration has divided opinion.
While additional funding for social housing is pleasing, May’s promise ignored the core issue – that there is not enough social renting stock to meet demand. Instead, the initiative will prioritise affordable renting and shared ownership schemes, hoping to make the property ladder more accessible.
In a previous blog, we discussed the vital difference between social and affordable rents and why this differentiation was pivotal to alleviate the housing crisis. Affordable renting is typically 80% of the private market value, whereas social renting is 50% cheaper. Therefore, a refusal to acknowledge the need for social renting denies those most in need of financial aid.
Currently, 1.15 million people are on the waiting list to access these social homes, and so the proposed additional funding will barely begin to ease the crisis. Some media outlets have even suggested that this figure will only allow for the construction of 15,000 homes.
Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of Crisis, summed up the initiative perfectly. He welcomed the news of more funding, but said ‘our research shows that 90,000 homes need to be built at social rent levels every year for the next 15 years to meet demand among the lowest incomes. Today’s financial commitment does not cover this.’
Alongside, the announcement of new funding, May used the opportunity to address the negative stereotypes that have become synonymous with social housing. She said ‘a certain stigma is still attached. Some residents feel marginalised and overlooked, and are ashamed to share the fact that their home belongs to a housing association or local authority.’
With this, May has demanded improved quality within social housebuilding, where ‘you cannot tell, simply by looking, which are affordable and which are sold at market value.’ Here at HS Property Group, we regularly work with housing associations and local authorities to help build high-quality social homes across the North West, so we welcome this announcement.
However, we cannot tackle the negative stigmas simply by building high-quality social homes – creating better communities is also vital. We work closely with social housing providers to try to improve the overall quality of living for those most vulnerable in our society. The renovation of existing buildings into social homes, which creates mixed tenure communities, helps us to achieve this. We will continue tackling negative stereotypes, believing firmly that housing should not signify social standing.
Regardless of whether you are welcoming or critical of this new initiative, one thing is certain – it is nothing more than a stepping-stone. The government needs to continue displaying their commitment to increasing housebuilding levels if they are to meet social housing demand.