Government low target for social housing criticised

Just after a major report pointed out that 3.1 million new social homes are needed in England in the next 20 years to cope with the demand for affordable homes, the Government’s low target has been revealed.

Housing Minister Kit Malthouse revealed that the current target is to build just 10,000 to 12,000 social homes per year. He told BBC Radio 5 that it is true that successive Governments have not built enough homes of all types, including social housing.

Land agents Aston Mead criticised the target mentioned by Malthouse and described it as ‘ludicrously low’, adding that it makes a mockery of actually having a target.

This comes after a report commissioned by the homeless charity Shelter called for a profound change in the building of social housing. It argued that while such a large social housing programme would require an average yearly investment of £10.7 billion during the construction phase, up to two thirds of this could be recouped through housing benefit savings and increased tax revenue each year.

‘Local authorities should be aiming to build far more social homes every year and they should be doing so on the swathes of council owned land which are crying out to be developed across the country,’ said Aston Mead land and planning director Adam Hesse.

He explained that funding for such building projects would be available if council money was diverted from more questionable investments, which are often situated hundreds of miles away from their local area.

‘This is quite clearly not a question of a lack of available money. Local authorities are still spending £100m every month buying retail centres, shops and offices, chasing returns to replace revenue lost in government cuts. That’s a total of £1.8 billion in the last year, and more than £3 billion since 2013,’ he pointed out.

‘Instead, these funds should be invested in building social housing, meaning that the councils could keep hold of their assets, at much lower risk and at higher returns than gambling on sub-standard investments on the commercial property market,’ he added.

Hesse believes that local authorities should concentrate on building social housing, while private construction firms build the rest. ‘Not only would this guarantee the creation of thousands of desperately needed affordable homes, it would also allow the private house building sector to regenerate, and grow again from the crash of 2008, when 50% of small house builders were completely wiped out,’ he said.

‘So while Help to Buy is available to assist people buying a home, we believe a higher percentage of affordable housing on every new scheme should be social housing in order to alleviate a massive problem in this country, which will otherwise only get even worse,’ he concluded.