Our homes have been a shelter from the storm during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now a new campaign, spearheaded by the National Housing Federation, is calling on the government to ensure social housing is central to the country’s recovery
Our homes are where we sleep, eat, spend time with our loved ones and build our lives. Homes can make us feel safe and grounded – and when our housing is insecure our lives can feel in freefall. For those who are homeless, the offer of accommodation can be the change that helps life get back on track. Social housing is a lifeline for many who cannot afford rents in the private sector.
In lockdown, the necessity of good quality housing has become even clearer. As we self-isolate and socially distance, our homes have become sanctuaries from the uncertainties of the world outside.
The importance of housing
Housing associations were quick to take action when lockdown was first implemented, helping residents to apply for benefits, housing rough sleepers and those escaping domestic abuse, and caring for those in supported facilities. Having quickly committed to not evict tenants during the pandemic, housing associations and their staff continued to go above and beyond to keep their residents safe. More than just a roof over your head, housing has become a hub for help and care in the midst of crisis.
Now, as we look beyond the pandemic, we must continue to recognise the importance of housing. The National Housing Federation wants homes to be at the heart of the country’s plans to recover from coronavirus. Working with the Chartered Institute of Housing, the National Federation of ALMOs, the Association of Retained Council Housing and Crisis – as well as over 60 other supporters from both inside and outside the housing sector – we are calling on the government to make investment in social housing a key plank of its post-pandemic strategic. Investment in housing will boost the economy, build communities and improve lives.
Kickstarting the economy
This crisis has reminded us of the pressing need for more high quality, beautiful and affordable homes to rent and to buy. Low paid key workers should not be forced to pay sky-high rents in the private sector and the rough sleepers housed in hotels should not be sent back to live on the streets. Families must not spend a moment longer stuck in overcrowded conditions and older people should have the opportunity to be cared for in their own homes. Stuck inside too many people in this country have been confronted with the reality of their housing situation and found it desperately lacking.
Improving housing will help some of those left most vulnerable by the pandemic, but it will also kickstart the economy. Building affordable homes delivers a broad and fast-acting economic stimulus and housing associations stand ready to play their part in getting the economy back on track – but they cannot do it alone. The sector needs to see additional funding put into affordable housing by government, allowing them to deliver ambitious building programmes and maintain supply.
Housing associations contribute £6 for every £1 of public funding they receive and use cash from government to leverage private investment in their work. Funding a long-term plan for affordable housing will deliver homes that are better value for money, unlock investment in technology and skills, and help the government meet its ambition of ending homelessness by 2025. With the UK needing 145,000 more affordable homes every year to meet real housing need, investing in housing is a decision that makes sense.
This investment will also create new opportunities in parts of the country which have long been neglected.
During the pandemic, local communities have acted as support networks in a time of crisis, setting up food banks, befriending services and offering access to food and medication for those self-isolating. Housing associations have worked closely with their communities and supported many of these projects, using their resources to help those most in need. But those areas worse affected by coronavirus have been experiencing inequality for decades. The NHF wants to see a new, long-term, £1bn-a-year investment in regeneration from the government, but also for steps to be taken to empower local organisations – like housing providers – to kickstart recovery from the grassroots.
Supporting social housing
A comprehensive, wraparound injection of support for the social housing sector will help the country to recover together. That is not to say there will not be challenges to getting these affordable homes built. Many supply chains are still facing disruption as a result of the pandemic and construction is likely to be slower while social distancing remains in place.
There are also other crises to contend with. Dangerous cladding needs urgently removing from many buildings and an extensive retrofitting programme is needed to tackle fuel poverty and make homes greener and cleaner. But by prioritising social housing in its planning, the government will ensure everyone has a secure and affordable home – and can reap the huge societal benefits that come with this.
Head of policy
National Housing Federation
+44 (0)20 7067 1010
LinkedIn: National Housing Federation