The sector has responded to the Social Housing Green Paper, urging the government to provide more investment in social housing, as the plans for new affordable homes fall short of expectations
Chartered Institute of Housing Deputy Chief Executive, Gavin Smart, described the paper as an “important contribution to the critical debate about what we think social housing is, what it does and what we want it to be in the 21st century.”
Smart added: “Proposals to strengthen the role of the regulator for social housing where housing providers’ services fall short of what their tenants deserve is something CIH argued for in our Rethinking Social Housing research report and it is good to see government thinking in the same way.
“We welcome the aim to tackle the stigmatisation of social housing, an issue which our report highlighted. Our Ipsos Mori public opinion polling showed that 65% of those interviewed felt that the negative view of people living in social housing is unfair.
“We are also pleased to see that government plans to consult on the rules on how local authorities can use the money they receive from Right to Buy sales as well as dropping plans to force local authorities to sell their most valuable homes.
“The green paper rightly recognises the importance of new supply but we are concerned that the plans for new affordable homes are not ambitious enough. Research shows we need a minimum of 78,000 of the most affordable homes each year in 2017/18 just over 5,000 were delivered – and we estimate that between 2012 and 2020 we will have lost 230,000 of these homes in total.
“This is why we have called on government to rebalance the £53bn funding for housing so that affordable housing gets a fairer share than the 21% it has now. This is essential if we are to make sure that everyone has a decent, affordable place to call home.”
Paul Hackett, chair of the G15 group of housing associations and chief executive of Optivo, said: “We welcome that the government is putting social housing tenants first in this green paper. Social housing plays a vital role in our society and it’s right that government takes seriously the unfair and completely inaccurate stigma that our tenants have suffered from in the past.
“Housing associations are always working to improve. There’s a real desire to do more to involve residents, to ensure we’re being transparent and to keep improving the services we offer tenants. We’re not starting from scratch.
“As housing associations, we’ve had to adapt in recent years, innovating and finding new ways of raising the funds needed to keep delivering the affordable housing this country needs. But building and managing homes is far from all we do.
“Against a backdrop of strained public services, we help improve tenants’ lives and communities by providing employment, skills and education programmes and investing in local facilities. This is making a real difference and we can work with government to achieve more together.
“The green paper is a step forward for social housing tenants, but higher grant levels and bigger funding programmes will be required in the long term if we’re going to tackle the housing crisis.”
National Housing Federation Chief Executive, David Orr, said housing associations “welcome” the Paper.
“For 40 years we have failed to build anything like enough social housing. It is time the country had a proper conversation about the role and importance of social housing in ending the housing crisis.
“Our members fully share the Government’s commitment to ensuring tenants get the quality services they need – and that they can hold their landlords to account if they don’t.
“We know that social housing residents like the quality of their homes, they’re concerned about the shortage of genuinely affordable homes and they feel that recent welfare reforms have caused real hardship. There must be space within the Green Paper consultation to address these wider concerns.
“We also know that many tenants believe the quality of services from their landlord could be improved. We know people want to feel listened to and influence the kind of services they receive. We have been leading a national conversation with our members and tenant organisations to understand where and how we can do better.
“Housing associations are committed to putting the people we serve at the heart of everything we do. We want to ensure this is the reality in all our homes and communities across the country.
“Without significant new investment in the building of more social housing, it is very hard to see how it can be a safety net and springboard for all the people who desperately need it.
“Our ambition for the Green Paper is that it sets a course for a future where everyone can access a quality home they can afford. To do that we need to build 90,000 new social rent homes every year.”
Björn Conway, Chief Executive of ilke Homes commented: “The Government report released today is a welcome step towards levelling the playing field between social tenants and landlords.
“The details included in the report show that the Government is committed to ramping up efforts to remove the stigma attached to social housing. However, if we want to create the thriving communities detailed in the report, we first need to tackle the wider issue at hand of delivering a pipeline of housing availability to those that need it most.
“While this report is making inroads by granting new borrowing capacity to local authorities to be able to borrow to build homes, it is just a start. We need a firm commitment by the Government to support local authorities across the country to help build these new homes.
“This is where innovative technology can play a part, implemented through modern methods of construction. Modular homes built in factories and delivered to sites across the UK can be fitted in a single day, with up to six properties installed per day. This means the timeframe from installation of the homes to families moving in can take just two weeks, providing a reliable and predictable timeline for local authorities, housing associations and developers to work towards. Offsite construction is gaining momentum as one of the only viable solutions to overcome the challenges the industry is facing and solve the housing shortage.”