Just 47,000 affordable homes a year are being built in Britain. Most of these are built by housing associations, only around 2,000 of them are built by local authorities even though there are already 1.7m households on waiting lists for council housing. To meet this backlog, many more affordable homes are needed.
The tragedy is that, within the housing association sector, there is certainly sufficient financial capacity to build many more affordable homes. Indeed, the sector as a whole could deliver as many as 100,000 affordable and market homes each year.
Indeed, the housing association sector is building up large reserves of cash – a surplus of £1.9bn in 2013 alone. That’s enough cash to build around 45,000 affordable homes if used alongside current government grant levels, contributions from private developers (so-called section 106), and sustainable borrowing.
Meanwhile the government is giving private developers more and more exemptions from the need to include social housing with their higher-priced offerings. The result is more and more people who have grown up and lived their whole lives in cities and towns been driven miles from their homes, family and friends as they are priced out of their own communities.
The only way to address this problem is to build more houses. Labour has a plan:
- We will get 200,000 homes built a year by 2020. This will close the gap between the number of homes we build and the number of homes we need, as well as providing up to 230,000 jobs in construction.
- We will unblock the supply of new homes by giving local authorities “use it or lose it” powers over developers who hoard land that has planning permission so that they can sell it on for a bigger profit, instead of building on it now.
- We will deliver a new generation of New Towns and Garden Cities, and give a new “right to grow” to communities who want to expand but are blocked by neighbouring local authorities.
- We will tackle empty homes by giving councils more power to charge higher rates of council tax on empty properties, and ensure new homes are advertised in the UK first, not overseas.