2020 Budget: where’s the grant for council house building?

The 2020 budget indicates that the new Affordable Homes Programme starting in 2021 would have £12.2 billion funding. This is £2.7 billion more than the 2016-21 programme. As yet there is no news as to the balance of funding between ‘social housing’ and ‘affordable home ownership’. The latest stats from Homes England show the current programme devoted nearly 52% of funds to ‘affordable ownership’, 43% to ‘affordable rent’ homes (housing associations and councils) but only 5% to ‘social rent’ (see table below)1.

In response to the budget the Local Government Association Environment spokesperson said:

“Greater investment in the Affordable Homes Programme is a positive step, but with more than a million households on council waiting lists, and over 86,000 households in temporary accommodation, it is vital the programme is re-focused towards building homes for social rent.”

It is vital. Alas there is no sign of movement by the government in this direction.

Whilst we are waiting to see the long promised Social Housing White Paper, the just published “Planning for the Future” document reflects the government’s emphasis on home ownership. It says that “this government is committed to rebuilding a home-owning Britain”. This is in line with the Tory manifesto which talked of “rebalancing the housing market towards more home ownership”.

There is, therefore, a gulf between what the LGA says is necessary – refocusing towards building homes for social rent – and the government’s apparent view that ‘social rent’ and council housing is a minor component of the housing market for “helping those most at risk of homelessness in areas of the country where affordability is most acute” (Planning for the Future).

Under these circumstances private lobbying by the LGA, which we understand has been taking place, is unlikely to shift them. We need to put the government under pressure by public campaigning. In relation to the private rented sector the government was pushed to shift its ground (e.g. ending section 21 evicitons) by a coalition of tenant and housing campaign groups which put the injustices of the private rented sector into the national media. We have to try to do the same for the demand that the government provide grant for councils to return to becoming large scale builders, something that even the LGA says is necessary.

We willl probably have to wait until the autumn statement to find out the detail of the £12.2 billion programme. In the intervening time it’s crucial every means of pressure is brought to bear for grant for a large scale council house building programme to be provided by the government. We need more than words (even correct ones) from the LGA.

Martin Wicks

  1. Affordable rent is up to 80% of market rent. In England it is on average £31.31 a week higher than ‘social rent’ (the technical term for council rent). It drives up the benefit bill because housing benefit is higher than for ‘social rent’ homes.

Table: SOAHP 2016-2021 funding and homes by Homes England Operating Area (end of September 2019)

Affordable Home Ownership

Affordable Rent

Social Rent

Total homes

Homes England Operating Area

Funding (£)

Grant funded

Nil Grant

Grant funded

Nil Grant

Grant funded

Nil Grant

Grant funded

Nil Grant

Midlands

428,431,869

5,122

738

6,327

2,213

531

26

11,980

2,977

North East, Y & H

394,140,886

4,950

520

6,049

1,723

81

11

11,080

2,254

North West

551,118,980

7,040

477

7,546

1,183

789

148

15,375

1,808

South East

392,960,603

7,410

6,998

2,650

10,928

823

60

10,883

17,986

South West

307,618,142

5,082

1,356

2,395

6,033

748

366

8,225

7,755

TOTAL

2,074,270,480

29,604

10,089

24,967

22,080

2,972

611

57,543

32,780

 

 

 

1 Comment

  1. The ground is shifting, the coronavirus has high-lighted the weakness’s in the British economy and the housing market, in particular the insane getting ones foot on the housing ladder, there has only ever been one solution to housing the entire population which is staring in us the face, council housing with council rents.

    Like

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