More social housing needed to tackle spiralling waiting lists

A post-pandemic building boom of 100,000 new social homes for rent each year would not only meet the demand for affordable homes but deliver a £14.5bn boost to the economy research reveals. 

The report, Building Post-Pandemic Prosperity, commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA), Association of Retained Council Housing, and National Federation of ALMOs, warns that rough sleeping, homelessness and sofa surfing is only likely to increase in the coming months. 

It estimates that spiralling council housing waiting lists could be set to nearly double to 2m households next year as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19.

The LGA says a large-scale social house-building programme by councils will offer a cheaper, safe and high-quality accommodation for struggling families priced out of the private housing market. 

As well as going a long way to meeting the government’s target of 300,000 homes a year, the report says this would also help to realise its ambition of levelling-up the country.

The LGA said the pandemic has had disproportionate health and financial impact on already disadvantaged groups, with the most deprived areas of England seeing mortality rates for COVID-19 double that of the least deprived.

While ethnic minorities have seen their household incomes reduce by a larger percentage than those of white citizens.

The report says that social home building will enable the government’s levelling-up agenda to target those communities in greatest need, by providing low-cost quality housing.

It would also help rescue the country’s ailing construction industry, which is forecast to have lost 1.3m worker-years of construction by 2024, as a result of lockdown closing many building sites, and social distancing impacting on those that have been able to reopen.

The government would save money, as every new council home built would help to reduce the housing benefit/universal credit bill as a result of taking the most vulnerable and in need families out of the expensive private sector and temporary accommodation and into social rent housing.

Cllr David Renard, LGA housing spokesperson, said: ‘With the number of people on council housing waiting lists set to double, it is absolutely vital that we build more housing for social rent.

‘Building 100,000 social homes for rent a year would bring significant social and economic benefits, from tackling our housing crisis and reducing rising levels of homelessness to wiping millions off welfare bills and improving people’s health and wellbeing while alleviating the pressure on health and social care.

‘We are urging the government in the Spending Review to give councils the powers to get building at scale again and deliver a housing programme that can play a central role in the national recovery from coronavirus.’

The LGA is urging the government to use the Spending Review to introduce measures that allow councils to resume their historic role as major builders of affordable homes.

This should include reforming Right to Buy, so councils keep receipts of homes sold under the scheme in full, as well as being given the powers to set discount levels locally.

Homes England has been contacted for comment.

Photo Credit -Pixabay

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