New funding pot will not address the housing crisis

By Mike Barrett

5 October 2017

At yesterday's Conservative Party Conference, Theresa May promised to fix Britain’s 'broken' housing market with an extra £2 billion for affordable homes.

This amounts to just 25,000 new social homes in the UK over the next two years.

And, as always, the devil is in the detail. How much of this housing will be let at social rent levels as opposed to ‘affordable’ rent levels is unclear.

Because here in Kent and the affluent south east, affordable rent properties - made available at 80% of market rent - are simply out of reach for the people we support.

We were told to expect an announcement of a new generation of council houses but it’s painfully obvious that the number of homes made available to those most in need will do little to address the homelessness crisis.

We need this initiative to be brought in with as much flexibility as possible so that local authorities can maximise the amount of social housing.

What I find baffling is that just ahead of the conference the government pledged an extra £10bn for Help to Buy, a scheme that has already failed to address the inequalities in the housing market.

By increasing the number of mortgages that are issued, house prices will go up and even more people will be forced into the private rented sector. This, in turn, will increase rents and leave the poorest and most vulnerable even further from a home to call their own.

But the most disappointing aspect of the conference was that there was nothing about the government’s incoherent proposal to cap housing benefit at Local Housing Allowance (LHA) level.

It was a missed opportunity to provide some clarification on one of the biggest issues facing the housing sector - a proposal that could see the closure of supported accommodation and many hundreds more people facing the misery of life on the streets.