As Samantha Partington’s look at Sajid Javid’s Rent to Buy proposals and other recent articles show, housing is suddenly climbing the ladder of political importance.
This month, the prime minister hosted a housing summit at Downing Street and seems to have taken ‘personal charge’ of the housing crisis.
It was particularly encouraging to see representatives from each part of the housing spectrum invited to this discussion, but much work remains to be done. Different policies will be required to address the crisis - from those tackling the lack of social and affordable rented housing stock available, to help for first-time buyers.
The procurement of social and affordable rented housing has in recent years been driven primarily by housing associations but local authorities can also play a vital role in delivering change. They should be able to keep the receipts from Right to Buy sales and rules must be reformed to allow local authorities to borrow more and invest in new council homes.
Changes to enable significant capital grant funding to construct affordable and social rented dwellings, without housing associations having to rely on open-market sales for subsidy, would also contribute to delivery. This would end housing associations’ reliance on sales to deliver profit through subsidiaries, which has to a large extent replaced grant funding.
In terms of property ownership, Help to Buy is still seen as a way of giving first-time buyers a step up on to the housing ladder. However, slow delivery of planning consent and developer land banking must be dealt with if we are to get near meeting housing needs.
Whether such measures will be introduced will depend on the Treasury and the money available for the autumn Budget. Any of these policies will inevitably mean more borrowing or debt for UK plc, making it a politically difficult path for the government to navigate.
There are no quick fixes but the hope is that there will be fiscal measures in the Budget that show real intent to get things moving. The government appears to have understood the severity of the problem. It now needs to put its money where its mouth is.