A post-pandemic building boom of 100,000 affordable homes a year is needed to provide housing fit for social care, health and other key workers who have fought coronavirus on the frontline, the Local Government Association (LGA) has set out in a new report today [22 June].
The LGA is calling for councils to be given the powers to build thousands more council homes, where they are locally needed and spearhead the national recovery from the virus.
Not only will this boost the supply of affordable housing, but it will also enable the country to get building again following a downturn in construction as a result of many housebuilders closing their sites.
The report, Delivery of Council Housing – Developing a Stimulus Package Post-Pandemic, sets out recommendations to central government to deliver a building programme of social homes.
It says that the government should expand council housing delivery by bringing forward and increasing the £12 billion extension of the Affordable Homes Programme announced in the budget in March, with an increased focus on homes for social rent.
It calls for reform of Right to Buy, with councils able to retain 100% of receipts from the sale of homes under the scheme, the deadline to spend the money from sales should be extended to at least five years, and councils need the power to set the size of discounts locally.
To increase the capacity of the building industry, which will have suffered following the coronavirus, a skills and jobs strategy is also needed to meet the needs of accelerating a social housing building programme, says the report.
The LGA said delivering 100,000 new high-quality social homes each year would also bring significant benefits to the national economy.
Research for the LGA and partners has found that investment in a new generation of social housing could return £320 billion to the nation over 50 years. It also found that every £1 invested in a new social home generates £2.84 in the wider economy, with every new social home generating a saving of £780 a year in housing benefit.
A large-scale social house-building programme, supported by the required infrastructure and services, would also help meet the government’s 300,000 new homes a year target, and alleviate pressures on health and social care that result from poor housing conditions.
Cllr David Renard, a LGA housing spokesman, said: “As the nation comes through the biggest crisis we have faced since the Second World War, we owe it to the health, care and other essential public service workers, who have risked their lives to keep the country running to provide them with affordable, high-quality homes fit for heroes.
“The government should let councils take charge of the housing recovery, by giving them the powers and tools to build more of the affordable homes the country desperately needs.
“A programme of 100,000 social homes a year would not only meet a third of the government’s housebuilding target, but it would generate a range of social and economic benefits.
“Now is the time for a genuine renaissance in council housebuilding that reduces homelessness, gets people off the streets for good, supports people’s wellbeing and is climate-friendly.”