‘A new deal for social housing’ does not go far enough

Wednesday, 5 December 2018 - 5:40pm

Along with many others in the sector, our response to the social housing green paper urged the Government to be more ambitious in taking urgent action to tackle the chronic undersupply of genuinely affordable housing.

In November, Homeless Link submitted a response to the Green Paper, ‘A new deal for social housing’. In our response, we supported the Green Paper’s broad aims to ensure social homes provide an essential, safe, well-managed service for all those who need it. However, our view, and the view of many of our members, is that the Green Paper does not go far enough in ensuring that social housing provides “an essential, good quality and well-run safety net for those who need it most”.

The safety net provided traditionally by social housing has been eroded over the past decades, and is a contributory factor in the increasing levels of homelessness. Rough sleeping has increased by 73% over the past three years, and the number of households in expensive, temporary accommodation has increased by 66% since December 2010.

Figures released last week show that not nearly enough homes are being added to existing supply with 47,355 affordable homes delivered in England in 2017/18 and within this only 6,463 additional social homes. This is nowhere near the 90,000 new homes for social rent needed to meet demand, and the overall 145,000 affordable homes needed, every year for the next 15 years.

Social housing can play a key role in both preventing homelessness and ending homelessness through providing a more affordable and secure place to live. People are much less likely to become homeless again if they move into social housing rather than private rented housing.

We urge the Government to focus on increasing supply and affordability

The Green Paper is not ambitious enough when it comes to increasing much needed supply in order to help those whose needs are not served by the market. Increasing the supply of affordable social homes can reduce homelessness and poverty and contribute to wider social and health outcomes for tenants and communities. Without focusing on the structural causes of homelessness, including prioritising the increase in supply of social housing, along with an effective welfare safety net, the Government will struggle to deliver its promise to end rough sleeping by 2027. We ask the Government to set out how it plans to meet the level of need for social housing of 90,000 homes a year for the next 15 years.

Alongside increased supply of social housing, a commitment to increase low-rent housing supply and affordability across all tenures is needed. We urge the Government to increase affordability and security in the private rented sector and also to reverse the freeze on the Local Housing Allowance and review levels so that they reflect the reality of the local rental market. 

Welfare reform changes have exacerbated affordability issues. Our evidence has highlighted that Universal Credit (UC) is not currently meeting its aims for people experiencing homelessness, leading instead to serious hardship and homelessness in some cases. The Government needs to pause the roll out of Universal Credit, including both natural and managed migration, until identified issues faced in making and managing a Universal Credit claim are fully addressed.

Overall, we would like to see the Government being more ambitious in taking urgent action to tackle the chronic undersupply of genuinely affordable housing, supporting vulnerable tenants, and providing social housing to those who need it the most, primarily people who are homeless. Increased investment and supply of social housing will help create thriving, mixed communities, as well as contributing significantly to solving the housing and homelessness crisis.

You can read our full response here.