Three weeks ago, I wrote about the new NPPF and its role in tackling the UK’s housing crisis. I also looked ahead to another important piece of the jigsaw – the long-awaited Social Housing Green Paper.
While not necessarily the “once in a generation” change we had hoped for, there’s much to be encouraged by in the document released last week. We welcome the government’s efforts to end stigmatisation of social housing tenants. They play a vital role in our society and we must challenge inaccurate stereotypes.
We support greater transparency, accountability of landlords and better recourse when things go wrong. The green paper sends the right signals in these respects.
It’s also right that central government is supporting councils to deliver more homes, by allowing them to retain Right to Buy receipts for longer and raising the spending cap on these receipts.
Much of the criticism levelled at the green paper focuses on the lack of new funding for affordable housing. As housing associations, we’ve been on the frontline, dealing with a significant funding gap for years.
We’ve found innovative ways to maximise delivery – the success of the cross-subsidy model we use to build and manage high-quality affordable housing is testament to our capability and capacity as developers. However, that cross-subsidy model is now at full stretch.
I would urge government to do more to allow more flexible use of grant funding, and to provide further resources to support development.
In the 1970s, almost 40 per cent of the population lived in social housing. Today, just 17 per cent of homes are in the social sector. Residualisation of the social housing sector over the past four decades has been a significant cause of stigma. A boost to affordable house building would be the most powerful commitment to tackling this.
Paul Hackett, chair of the G15 and chief executive of Optivo