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DCLG slammed for ‘lack of ambition’ in tackling housing crisis

The government has been criticised for ‘lacking ambition’ in tackling the UK’s housing crisis, MPs have today warned.

Despite acknowledging that the market in England is broken, the government was slammed for relying on an existing market dominated by only a handful of private developers, making property unaffordable for many in the UK.

MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also raised concern about the rate at which housebuilding was lagging behind, saying that between 2001 and 2010 only 144,000 new homes were completed annually – 100,000 fewer per year than levels in the 1970s.

The report stated: “In the absence of any clear plans for raising supply further, the DCLG conceded that the fundamental flaws in the housing system could persist for decades to come.

“We are highly concerned by this lack of urgency and ambition, most of all in view of the rising costs, both human and financial, of homelessness.

“Not only does becoming homeless people represent a terrible blight on people’s lives, it also places additional strain on public spending: councils’ spending on temporary accommodation amounted to £840m in 2015–16, a real-terms rise of nearly half (46%) in just five years.”

PAC also said that DCLG had not been transparent enough about the overarching housing objectives and progress of local initiatives that aimed to reach these targets.

It also stated that it was worrying that the government was spending around £21bn each year on housing benefit, without knowing what contribution this money makes to the supply of new homes.

“Some £8.4bn of the spending on housing benefit went to housing associations, which use rental income such as this to borrow to invest,” PAC wrote. “However, neither the DCLG nor the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) is able to quantify the impact of this funding on the construction of new homes. Another £8bn of housing benefit went to private tenants.

“While this funding subsidises rents it does not contribute to the financing of new social housing.”

The committee also called on the government to stop subsidising private landlords to provide homes which were below a decent standard, as over a quarter (29%) of private rentals were not in a fit state. 

PAC’s findings follow recent government plans for cracking down on rogue landlords, as it gave councils the power to fine people up to £30,000 if they were found guilty for malpractice in renting a property.

And yesterday, mayor of London Sadiq Khan launched an online criminal landlords database in a bid to create transparency in the property market in the capital. 

Top Image:  Rui Vieira

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