Latest Public Sector News

14.08.18

Social housing green paper only small step compared to ‘huge need’ for affordable homes, LGA says

The government’s social housing green paper is “only a small step” in delivering more social homes says the UK’s largest local government body.

Government proposals to give social housing residents greater support in holding their landlords to account has been criticised by the Local Government Association (LGA) and campaigning groups against the plans.

The green paper pledged to offer all tenants a “springboard” into ownership, by allowing residents to buy as little as 1% of their homes a year.

Other measures listed in the proposals include speeding up the complaints process and publishing league tables to highlight the performance of landlords.

James Brokenshire said the proposals offer “a landmark opportunity for major reform to improve fairness, quality and safety” for tenants.

Yet Cllr Judith Blake, LGA housing spokesperson, said: “This green paper is a step towards delivering more social homes but it is only a small step, compared with the huge and immediate need for more genuinely affordable homes.”

One of the proposals announced is to support the building of more social housings by “exploring new flexibilities on how local authorities spend the money from homes sold under the Right to Buy scheme”.

The current scheme allows councils to keep a third of each Right to Buy receipt from a home sold to buy a replacement one but prevents them from borrowing to make up the shortfall.

Blake added: “The government must go beyond the limited measures announced so far, scrap the housing borrowing cap, and enable all councils across the country to borrow to build once more. This would trigger the renaissance in council house-building which will help people to access genuinely affordable housing.”

The paper also lays out plans to tackle the stigma of council renting and said it would “challenge the stereotypes that exist about residents and their communities.”

Bjorn Howard, CEO of housing association Aster Group, said it was important to “tackle the stigma” that some social housing tenants feel.

He added: “It’s crucial we accept that a properly functioning housing market needs a blend of owner-occupier homes along with other types of tenure, including affordable rent.”

However, Howard added that “it is disappointing that the green paper doesn’t outline plans for any new investment. Significant funding is needed to ensure the most vulnerable in society are provided with good-quality homes.”

Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for housing and planning, said: “while boroughs will be pleased the long-awaited green paper proposes new flexibilities aimed at increasing local authorities’ social housing stock, we need to see the government act with more urgency. 

“The longer it takes to implement these changes, the worse the capital’s homelessness crisis will get.”

There are currently more than 54,000 London households living in temporary accommodation and London Councils say they can’t afford to keep waiting.

Continuing restrictions set by central government have caused London Councils to call on the government to scrap the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap and the restrictions on the use of Right to Buy receipts.

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Image Credit: James-Davison

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