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“Substantial” public sector house building required, says shadow housing minister

Words: Laura Edgar

Shadow housing minister John Healey has set out a series of financial reforms aimed at helping the public sector build 100,000 homes a year.

The discussion report, High aspirations, sound foundations: a discussion report on the centre-ground case for building 100,000 new public homes (PDF), written by Healey and published by the Smith Institute, also lays out the need for affordable housing.

High aspirations, sound foundations makes five arguments for new public homes, including that they are needed to simply build enough homes.

Citing 250,000 homes a year as what is needed and 200,000 as the current government aim, Healey discusses how social housing used to make up a large part of the overall housing supply a year and, if the houses the country needs are to be built, “the government must ensure many more council and housing association homes are built”.

"We can’t build the homes that our country needs to comfortably and affordably house our children and grandchildren without a substantial and sustained programme of public house-building" - John Healey

He also argues that building more social housing would make homes affordable; increase work incentives; boost jobs and the economy and secure value-for-money from public spending.

Building 100,000 homes for social rent can be done, Healey says, and there are a number of ways such a programme can be delivered.

The proposals include giving councils more freedom to borrow against its assets and allowing them to be run like the “uniquely accountable, enterprising public institutions that council leaders of all political colours want to be”.

“We model 60,000 additional homes over five years as a result of this policy change,” the report states.

Healey also recommends tightening the obligations of developers to fund more social rented homes. Increasing the number of homes delivered through developer obligations would enable 16,000 new homes to be built a year, he claims.

Reforming Right to Buy so that it “actually delivers one-to-one replacements” would reduce the number of homes sold and bring in “6,000 additional replacement homes per year compared to the status quo”, the reports argues.

Other changes include:

  • Using the power of the government balance sheet to bring down the cost of finance for housing associations

  • Funding a significant Homes and Communities Agency grant programme to allow councils and housing associations to build at scale, and lever in private finance

  • Appointing a minister to sit jointly in both the Department of Communities and Local Government and Department for Work and Pensions.

Image courtesy of the National Archives