Funding for social housing ‘in crisis’ as benefit bill soars - new report
The social housing sector is facing a funding "crisis", as private landlords pocket billions in housing benefit cash, according to a damning new report.
The research by the National Housing Federation found that investment in social rented properties had been slashed from £11.4bn in 2009 to £5.3bn in 2015, while at the same time spending on housing benefit has risen dramatically.
Over the last 20 years, the housing benefit bill has risen from £16.6bn to £25.1bn - £9.1bn of which went to private landlords in 2015/16 - and yet there are still more than a million families on the housing waiting list.
NHF Chief Executive David Orr, said: “It is absurd that we’re spending less on building social housing than we did in the nineties – there are even more people today on housing waiting lists than then despite increasingly stringent criteria.
“We know we need more, better quality social housing. And yet, rather than putting public money into building the homes we need, we are propping up rents in a failing market. Ultimately, this is poor value for the taxpayer and has a knock-on effect on everyone struggling to rent or buy."
Referring to Theresa May’s acknowledgement in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in June that social housing had been neglected, Mr Orr continued: “The Prime Minister is right that we’ve not paid social housing enough attention.
“After the tragic fire at Grenfell, this crisis can no longer be ignored. The Government must be bold and make a break with the past by making money available to build genuinely affordable homes.
“There’s more than a billion pounds that remains unspent on Starter Homes. Let’s put this money to use and let housing associations build 20,000 of the genuinely affordable homes the nation needs.”
'WASHED THEIR HANDS'
Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey, blamed Conservative Ministers for the dramatic fall in the number of homes for social rent being built.
He said: “Conservative ministers have washed their hands of any responsibility to build the homes families on ordinary incomes need
“Under Labour in 2009/10 we started building almost 40,000 homes for social rent. By last year this had fallen by 98% to fewer than 1,000.
“Ministers try to hide their failure to build more affordable homes by branding more homes ‘affordable’. The Conservative definition of affordable housing now includes homes close to full market rent and on sale for up to £450,000.
"Public concern about housing is around the highest level for 40 years. Millions of families are struggling with high housing costs. Faced with this Ministers have turned their back on the way they can help most - by building low-cost homes to rent and buy.
"Only Labour has a credible long-term plan to build the genuinely affordable homes the country needs."
But a DCLG spokesman said: "We introduced Affordable Rent in 2012 to maximise government investment and build more homes for below market rent.
"We've already delivered nearly 333,000 affordable homes since 2010 and have announced an additional £1.4bn for our Affordable Homes Programme, increasing the total investment to £7.1bn."