Millions of social homes should be built over the next 20 years to tackle the “worsening” housing crisis and extend provision to more people in need, housing charity Shelter has said.
Some 3.1 million new homes are needed to provide for homeless households and those living in poor conditions, people living with a disability or long-term illness, and over-55s.
But the landmark report also recommends that those in need who would not qualify under the current system should also be provided for. That includes “trapped renters” – young families stuck with expensive rents and little prospect of being able to buy their own home.
The 220-page ‘Building for our future: a vision for social housing’ report was launched following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, bringing together 16 independent commissioners including Labour MP Ed Miliband, Baroness Doreen Lawrence and Grenfell survivor Ed Daffarn.
Commissioners spent one year speaking with hundreds of social tenants, 31,000 members of the public, and housing experts. Shelter will present their recommendations to the Prime Minister and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today.
Among the proposals put forward are the construction of 1.27 million homes for homeless households, those living with a disability or long-term illness, or living in very poor conditions.
It suggests nearly 700,000 homes be built for older private renters struggling with high housing costs beyond retirement, in figures calculated using government data and figures from the Office for National Statistics.
The charity also calls for 1.17 million homes for trapped renters.
Among them is Lucie, who works full-time as a welfare case officer in a charity.
The 30-year-old rents privately and lives with her two children aged 11 and 6, but says they have had to move eight times since her daughter was born in 2007.
“I really feel that if I’d been offered social housing and I’d been able to live somewhere affordable for the last ten years, I think I’d probably be in a position now where I could buy my own property, and that social home could then go back to someone else who needs it,” she said.
“But because I’ve had to move so many times, and rents are so high – the financial implications have been devastating. It simply hasn’t been possible for me to save the money. Just that little bit of stability for me and my children would have made a big difference.”
The report found that just 6,500 more social homes were provided last year, but Shelter is calling for 155,000 to be built between now and 2039, each home partially funded by the government.
The commission suggests that the scheme is the best way to ensure the government reaches its goal to build 300,000 houses a year.
The proposals would cost nearly £11bn on average each year during construction, yet it is estimated that the benefits will outweigh the costs as some two-thirds would be recouped through housing benefit savings and an increase in tax revenue.
Research from Capital Economics estimates that the investment will have “fully paid for itself” after 39 years.
I really feel that if I’d been offered social housing and I’d been able to live somewhere affordable for the last ten years, I think I’d probably be in a position now where I could buy my own property
Alongside “essential” reforms, the charity is calling for a new “Ofsted-style” regulator to protect residents and put in place common standards across both social and private renting.
It also recommends an organisation be set up to better represent social housing tenants’ views in central and local government, and measures to be put in place to ensure enough investment to maintain social housing and neighbourhoods.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, one of the report’s commissioners, said: “Social mobility has been decimated by decades of political failure to address our worsening housing crisis. Half of young people cannot buy, and thousands face the horror of homelessness.
“Our vision for social housing presents a vital political opportunity to reverse this decay. It offers the chance of a stable home to millions of people, providing much needed security and a step up for young families trying to get on in life and save for their future. We simply cannot afford not to act.”
Miliband added such a vision would be a way to “restore hope, build strong communities, and fix the broken housing market”.
He said: “The time for the government to act is now. We have never felt so divided as a nation, but building social homes is a priority for people right across our country. This is a moment for political boldness on social housing investment that we have not seen for a generation.”
John Healey MP, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, said: “Housing will be at the heart of the next Labour government’s plans to rebuild Britain, with a million new genuinely low-cost homes in the first ten years alone.”
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been contacted for comment.