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Concern grows over lack of new housebuilding

Source: Public Sector Executive May/June 12

The leading organisations in the housing sector are concerned that Government pledges are not materialising in reality. Adam Hewitt reports.

The updated edition of the Housing Report shows only ‘limited progress’ on housebuillding, which is failing to tackle the country’s “dire housing crisis”.

The National Housing Federation, Shelter and the Chartered Institute of Housing, which jointly produce the report, suggest that in some areas things have got worse since the first edition of the report, in October 2011: from four ‘red lights’, three ambers, two greens and a wait-and-see, to – in May 2012 – five reds, three ambers and two greens.

They cite a small increase in the overall number of new homes being built, but state that this is from a very low baseline and that “much more needs to be done”. The Government has again pledged to deliver 170,000 new affordable homes by 2015.

The 42-page report, based on official statistics, demonstrates that overcrowding, homelessness and the affordability of the rented sector are getting worse, painting a “pretty bleak picture” of the market. Improvements were seen in empty homes and evictions, repossessions and arrears.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, said: “Much more needs to be done to tackle this country’s dire housing crisis. Unless we build significantly more homes, it will only get worse.

“Building new homes will help fix our broken housing market and, with rising unemployment and living costs, spur economic growth by creating jobs and supporting small businesses.”

Kay Boycott, director of communications, policy and campaigns at Shelter, said: “This government has had two years to start delivering on housing, yet this report paints a pretty bleak picture of its current record on housing in all its forms.”

Grainia Long, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said the Government needed to “step up its efforts” and be “more ambitious in its strategy to boost housing supply”.

Housing minister Grant Shapps responded: “Far from rents rising, we have seen a real terms fall in private rents and I want to see councils using the powers that they already have to tackle the small minority of rogue landlords.

“I’m sure these housing organisations will welcome our Affordable Homes Programme which is set to exceed expectations and deliver up to 170,000 affordable homes, and a £1.3bn investment to get Britain building.”

The report itself acknowledges these pledges and the various Government schemes to improve housing, but adds: “Declarations of good intentions are only a first step towards effecting change. For evidence of real progress we need to study the statistics…We note the Housing Minister’s preference, stated in response to the first edition of The Housing Report, to be ‘judged by what real people experience in the real world’, but we hope the minister would agree that the official figures that constitute the backbone of this report provide an essential account of what people are experiencing in aggregate.”

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