The time is now when it comes to housing
At a time of house price inflation, falling home ownership, more people privately renting and increased private rents, the recent English Housing Survey showed the proportion of people renting social housing remained steady at 17% in 2013/14.
However, the number of people on local authority housing waiting lists in England has mushroomed in recent years and now stands at 1,368,312 households (Excel file) While it has fallen since the peak of 1.8m in 2012 this is only due to councils setting tighter conditions, rather than meeting people’s needs. And latest figures show us the numbers of homeless people has also grown.
The social housing stock has shrunk due to selling off under the Right to Buy policy of the Thatcher government, and while some capacity has been replaced by housing associations the social housing sector is in crisis and in need of attention, as is the housing sector as a whole.
From April 2012 property let by local authorities or private registered providers has been subject to controls that require a rent of no more than 80 per cent of the local market rent. Therefore tenants can be charged considerably more than they previously paid and effectively charged out of their accommodation.
Recent research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on what the housing market would look like in 2040 projects that setting social rents closer to market rents could put an extra 1.3m people in poverty by 2040, and they believe this is the most cautious estimate.
So, we are in situation that needs urgently to be addressed. The three main parties have proposed various policies should they win the next election including the Liberal Democrat’s 300,000 new homes a year; the 200,000 per year from the Labour Party and the proposal this week from the Conservative Party that they would build 200,000 starter homes for under 40 year olds by 2020.
What is clear is that housing has to move up the list of political priorities, and social housing has to be included in the list. We have seen political targets before. This time they have to be met. Otherwise too many people will be left in housing misery.