Social housing paper ‘fails to provide cash needed for homes’

14 Aug 18

The government has come under fire from campaign groups for failing to commit new funding to boost social housing, in its long-awaited green paper released today.

Communities secretary James Brokenshire said the so-called ‘new deal’ for social housing “offers a landmark opportunity for major reform to improve fairness, quality and safety” for tenants.

But Polly Neate, chief executive of homeless charity Shelter, said: “Today’s green paper is full of warm words, but doesn’t commit a single extra penny towards building the social homes needed by the 1.2 million people on the waiting list.”

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, noted a “lack of concrete plans to build significantly more truly affordable homes”.

He added: “Against a back drop of rising foodbank use, families on low incomes will continue to face impossible choices about whether to pay the rent or put food on the table.”

One of the proposals announced is to support the building of more social housing, including through “exploring new flexibilities on how [local authorities] spend the money from homes sold under the Right to Buy scheme”.

The current scheme allows councils to keep a third of each RTB receipt from homes sold to build a replacements but bars them from borrowing to make up the shortfall.

The government will also look at reforming the RTB replacement target, which has been one for one since 2012.

And it will consult on dropping David Cameron’s 2015 policy of requiring councils to sell off vacant, higher-value stock.

This policy meant councils were required to pay an annual sum to government to fund the extension of RTB discounts, which was to be recouped by councils selling off higher-value homes when they became vacant.

The Local Government Association housing spokesperson Judith Blake said there were “some positive signs in the consultation” regarding RTB reforms but called on the government to go “much further” and allow councils to keep 100% of the receipts.  The LGA has said this would more easily allow councils to replace the homes lost through RTB.

The government said the green paper aimed to “rebalance the relationship between residents and landlords”, “tackle stigma” associated with people living in social housing and support social mobility.

To help do this the government will speed up the tenant complaint process and give “sharper teeth” to the Regulator of Social Housing, ensuring social homes are well managed and of decent quality. 

The introduction of a league table for social housing providers will aim to hold bad practice to account and ensure residents are treated with dignity and respect, according to the Ministry for Housing, Local Government and Communities. 

The green paper contains proposals to make it easier for tenants to progress into home ownership by allowing them to purchase as little as 1% of their property each year through the government’s shared ownership programme.

Brokenshire said: “Regardless of whether you own your home or rent, residents deserve security, dignity and the opportunities to build a better life.”

The consultation on the green paper, to be released later today, will run until 6 November 2018.

Reaction to the social housing green paper


Gavin Smart - deputy chief executive, Chartered Institute of Housing:

“The green paper rightly recognises the importance of new supply but we are concerned that the plans for new affordable homes are not ambitious enough.

“Research shows we need a minimum of 78,000 of the most affordable homes each year, but in 2017/18 just over 5,000 were delivered – and we estimate that between 2012 and 2020 we will have lost 230,000 of these homes in total.”


John Healey - shadow housing secretary:

“The number of new social rented homes is at a record low but there is no new money to increase supply, and ministers are still preventing local authorities run by all parties from building the council homes their communities need.”


Judith Blake - LGA housing spokesperson:

“The government must go beyond the limited measures announced so far, scrap the housing borrowing cap, and enable all councils, across the country, to borrow to build once more.”


David Orr - chief executive, National Housing Federation:

“Without significant new investment in the building of more social housing, it is very hard to see how it can be a safety net and springboard for all the people who desperately need it.

“Our ambition for the green paper is that it sets a course for a future where everyone can access a quality home they can afford. To do that we need to build 90,000 new social rent homes every year.”


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