Millions of social homes needed to solve ‘housing crisis’

Housing charity Shelter says that three million new social homes must be built in England over 20 years to solve the ‘housing crisis’, claiming that schemes such as Help-to-Buy are a less effective use of taxpayers' money.

The charity’s report, part of 16 independent commissioners brought together by Shelter to examine housing in England, says that upfront costs of £11 billion a year could come from housing benefit savings by moving tenants from high-cost privately rented homes to social housing.

Furthermore, the commission suggests that council houses and social housing should be available to more than just the people in greatest need and those saving to buy. As well as the 1.3 million people it estimates are in greatest need because of hazardous homes, overcrowding, homelessness and disabilities, the new homes should be accessible to a further 1.2 million young people and 700,000 older people trapped in private rent.

The call for three million new social homes over the next 20 years in the A vision for social housing report represents a direct challenge to the Conservative government to dramatically increase social house building from its current level of just over 6,000 homes a year. The number of new homes proposed is equivalent to seven times more houses than there are are in Birmingham and 27 times more than in Milton Keynes.

Analysis carried by research group Capital Economics on behalf of Shelter claims that building 3.1 million new social homes would cost an average of £10.7 billion a year, although Shelter states that the government would save £60 billion over 30 years if it can make renting cheaper.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband, part of the commission, told BBC Breakfast that the proposal would ‘transform the fabric of the country, the lives of millions of people in the country’.

The government plans to build 250,000 homes by 2022, including homes for social rent, arguing that providing ‘quality and fair social housing is a priority’.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders, said of the report: “Industry, popular opinion and economists continue to tell the Government that they must build more social homes. It’s time they listened and became the first Government in twenty years to meet very clear expectations.”