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Housing shortfall in England is four million, much higher than thought, says new report

The true scale of the housing shortage in England is revealed in a new report which says there is a shortfall of four million homes in the country.

Some 340,000 new homes need to be built every year until 2031 to meet current and future demand, according to the research conducted by Heriot Watt University for the National Housing Federation and homeless charity Crisis.

The report calls for a new housing settlement needed to address the shortage and provide enough homes, pointing out that demand comes in many forms, including homeless people, tenants who want to buy but cannot afford to do so, young people staying with their parents and couples delaying having children because they are stuck in unsuitable housing.

The number of new homes needed is significantly higher than current projections and the Government’s target of 300,000 homes annually and the report warns that it is not just a matter of building homes, but building the kind of homes that people need.

It says that of the 340,000 homes needed each year some 145,000 need to be affordable, more than the current estimate of 78,000. It points out that in 2016/2017, only around 23% of the total built were affordable homes.

The new research also goes further than previous studies, breaking down exactly what type of affordable homes are needed. It says there should be 90,000 for social rent, 30,000 for intermediate affordable rent and 25,000 for shared ownership.

The research comes ahead of the publication of the Government’s social housing green paper, expected in the summer. The Government promised the green paper would bring about a ‘fundamental rethink’ of social housing in the UK.

In September 2017, the Prime Minister promised to invest £2 billion in affordable housing, indicating that this could deliver around 25,000 new homes for social rent over the next three years, but the research says that this would deliver less than 10% of the social rented homes needed each year.

The report calls for ambitious, comprehensive reforms to the land market to help deliver more homes and make up the housing shortfall. It says this must include prioritising the sale of public land for social housing, as well as exploring ways to reduce the cost of private land.

It will take time to build up the country’s affordable housebuilding programme to the levels needed but lessons from the past show that, with Government backing to release land at affordable prices and to increase investment, housing associations and councils have the potential to increase the supply of new homes for social rents, and low cost home ownership.

‘This ground breaking new research shows the epic scale of the housing crisis in England. The shortfall of homes can’t be met overnight, instead we need an urgent effort from the Government to meet this need, before it publishes its social housing green paper in the summer,’ said David Orr, NHF chief executive.

‘The green paper will set out the Government’s approach to tackling a number of key issues, like stigma of social housing tenants. However, it is clear that many of these stem from a chronic underinvestment in affordable housing. Fixing this should be the Government’s top priority. As a first step, ministers should make the £2 billion they promised for social rent available immediately,’ he pointed out.

‘The Government must also totally change the way it sells surplus land. The priority here must be supporting developments that will deliver a public good on public land, rather than simply selling it off to the highest bidder,’ he added.

The findings represent a huge opportunity for us as a country to get to grips with the housing and homelessness crisis and to end it once and for all, according to Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis.

‘Right now across England, councils are desperately struggling to find homeless people somewhere to live. This means thousands of people are ending up trapped in B&Bs and hostels or on the streets, exposed to danger every night. It also means that far too many people are living on a knife edge, in danger of losing their homes because of sky-high housing costs,’ he said.

Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) believes that a bold and ambitious plan is needed to solve the housing crisis. ‘What the report also shows is that we have to make sure we build the right homes, in the right places and that people can afford them. For most people social rented housing is the only truly affordable option and the Government must support the building of many more of these crucial homes,’ said Alafat.

One of the primary concerns raised by tenants in recent Ministerial tenant events was the chronic shortage of social rented homes in England, according to Leslie Channon, chair of the A Voice for Tenants’ Steering Group. ‘It is vital that the Government works closely with landlords and tenants to deal with this crisis as soon as it possibly can,’ Channon added.