Former ministers in ‘landmark’ call for more than three million new council homes by 2040

Posted On: 
8th January 2019

Former Conservative ministers are among an independent panel demanding that more than three million new social homes are built in a bid to tackle Britain’s housing crisis.

Former Conservative ministers and Labour politicians are among those to have drawn up the report
Credit: 
PA Images

A commission set up in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy found “ambitious” proposals totalling £214bn over 20 years would best help those in desperate need, alongside “trapped renters” and older private renters.

The year-long report, led by major housing charity Shelter, said the plans for 3.1 million new homes marked the “only way for the government to reach its 300,000 homes a year target” and that it would prove a “more effective use” of public funds than ministers’ Help to Buy scheme.

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The document was drawn up by 16 “diverse” commissioners including former Tory ministers Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and Lord Jim O’Neill.

Ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, the campaigner and mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, and Grenfell survivor Ed Daffarn also took part.

The charity says half of young people have no chance of ever buying a home, while low-income private renters spend an average of 67% on rent, and almost 280,000 people in England are homeless.

It recommends 1.27 million homes be built for the homeless, those living with a disability or long-term illness, or living in dire conditions.

Meanwhile 1.17 million would be created for younger families who cannot afford to buy and face a lifetime in “expensive and insecure” private renting – the so-called “trapped renters”.

And 690,000 homes would go towards those over 55 who struggle with high housing costs and insecurity beyond retirement.

The group say the proposals would cost £10.7bn a year during the construction period, but say independent analysis found this would drop to £3.8bn through recouped housing benefit and increased tax revenue.

The report says that after 39 years the investment will have fully paid for itself.

Elsewhere it recommended an Ofsted-style regulator to enforce common standards across social and private renting and a union of social housing tenants to give them a voice in front of national and regional decision makers.

Lord O’Neill, who was a key figure in the Northern Powerhouse scheme championed by David Cameron’s government, said the proposals were “well within [the Government’s] financial reach.”

“There needs to be a profound shift to see social housing as a national asset like any other infrastructure,” he said.

“A home is the foundation of individual success in life, and public housebuilding can be the foundation of national success…

“With current spending on housing benefit shockingly inefficient, it’s not hard to see what an investment in bricks and mortar could do to help solve the housing crisis and boost our economy.” 

SOCIAL MOBILITY 'DECIMATED'

Former foreign office minister and Conservative Party chair Baroness Warsi said failure to address the “worsening housing crisis” had “decimated” social mobility.

“Our vision for social housing presents a vital political opportunity to reverse this decay,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mr Miliband said the move would mark “a political boldness” in social housing investment “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,” he said.

Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey, responded to the report’s findings, adding: “This important report should be a wake-up call for Conservative Ministers.

“It confirms that investment in new social homes has fallen dramatically since 2010 and that the Conservative re-definition of ‘affordable housing’ is a sham.”

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive at the National Housing Federation, said: “This is a landmark report from Shelter, and we are encouraged by the overwhelming public support for social housing they have uncovered.

“The report adds to the growing consensus that social housing needs a long-term programme of investment...”

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said of the document: "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.

 “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.

“Our ambitious £9 billion affordable homes programme will deliver 250,000 homes by 2022, including homes for social rent. A further £2 billion of long term funding has already been committed beyond that as part of a ten year home building programme through to 2028.

“We’re also giving councils extra freedom to build the social homes their communities need and expect.”