Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Britain urged to spend billions on social housing to end crisis

An independent report said three million more homes must be built

Drastic action is needed to solve Britain's social housing crisis, a leading charity has warned. AFP 
Drastic action is needed to solve Britain's social housing crisis, a leading charity has warned. AFP 

The scale of Britain’s housing crisis was laid bare on Tuesday as a high-level report called for more than £200 billion (Dh940 billion) to be spent on building three million more homes.

Addressing a shortage of social housing, Shelter, a leading charity, urged the government to begin an ambitious 20-year housebuilding programme to make up for systemic failures to provide enough newly built homes since the 1980s.

The 16 independent commissioners of the report include former Labour leader Ed Miliband, former Conservative chairman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and Edward Daffran, a Grenfell survivor.

The authors spent a year speaking to hundreds of social tenants, housing experts and more than 30,000 members of the public.

They concluded that the government should build 1.27 million homes for “those in greatest housing need”, including disabled people, homeless people or those living in inadequate housing. It also recommended widening the criteria for those who are eligible for social housing. It identified a rent trap in which 1.2 million families earned too little to build a deposit while paying for accommodation, even as their income was too high to qualify for state-owned properties.

Despite ranking as the world’s fifth largest economy, homelessness in Britain has soared over the past decade. Research released by Shelter last year revealed that 320,000 people in Britain do not have a home, amounting to one in 200 of the population.

The government has pledged to build 250,000 affordable homes by 2022 at a cost of £9bn, some of which will be available for social rent, which is cheaper than privately rented accommodation and provided on a long-term basis.

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“Providing quality and fair social housing is a priority for this government, and our social housing green paper seeks to ensure it can both support social mobility and be a stable base that supports people when they need it,” said James Brokenshire, the communities secretary.

“We’ve asked tenants across the country for their views and the thousands of responses we’ve received will help us design the future of social housing. We’re also giving councils extra freedom to build the social homes their communities need and expect.”

But the authors of the report argue that the government plans are not bold enough.

Baroness Warsi said: “Social mobility has been decimated by decades of political failure to address our worsening housing crisis.”

While Ed Miliband urged the government to act immediately, he said: “We have never felt so divided as a nation, but building social homes is a priority for people right across our country. This is a moment for political boldness on social housing investment that we have not seen for a generation.

“It is the way to restore hope, build strong communities, and fix the broken housing market so that we meet both the needs and the aspirations of millions of people.”

Shelter said the report’s commission was partly inspired by the Grenfell disaster, which “must mark a turning point in how we talk about social housing".

Updated: January 8, 2019 07:05 PM

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