Buggins’ turn

It almost seems a waste of energy to write about the new housing minister. Eight in eight years have passed through the post, often on their way to greater things – if becoming chairman of the Tory party, principle advisor to the PM or Brexit Secretary count as advancement. Labour’s Sarah Jones has summed up yesterday’s man Dominic Raab’s six months of failure very effectively here.

It sometimes looks like the choice is done by sticking a pin in a list of Tory MPs who don’t know anything much about housing. Since 2010 characters called Prisk, Hopkins, Barwell, Sharma and Raab have all held the job for less than a year. Scarcely enough time to wring your hands about homelessness on the streets, meet David Orr of the NHF to discuss solving the housing crisis, and make the same recycled ‘keynote’ speech at the CIH Conference. Move along, nothing to see here. Mind you, as Grant Shapps and Brandon Lewis both managed around 2 years, it might be that high turnover is to be encouraged.

It must be admitted that tenure of the post was not much longer under Labour. Charlie Falconer, Jeff Rooker, Caroline Flint, Margaret Beckett and John Healey all served less than a year in the Ministerial job. It wasn’t Healey’s fault of course, he did a lot in a short time before Labour lost in 2010 and has shown considerable stickability in the shadow role since. Yvette Cooper turns out to be the longest-serving housing minister since 1997, followed by destroyer Shapps and Labour’s first, Hilary Armstrong.

So will Kit Malthouse soon be on his bike or will he last longer? Personally, I hope he suffers the same fate as John Healey – losing the job because of an electoral defeat.

Various news outlets have reported on his little bit of housing history. Huffpost  reports that he oversaw a hostile zero tolerance approach to rough sleeping when he was deputy leader of Westminster Council 15 years ago – the famous period when the council hosed down the streets to make them more uncomfortable for the homeless. His last job saw him in charge of the roll-out of Universal Credit, so competence is unlikely to be on his list of talents.

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Kit Malthouse with some other chap at City Hall (from KM website).

I have no personal experience of the gentleman, but it is recorded that he was the councillor who negotiated the settlement with Dame Shirley Porter in 2004 after she was ‘fined’ £42million (including surcharges, interest and costs) by the district auditor for the gerrymandering ‘Homes for Votes’ scandal. Magically, it was decided that she would only pay £12million. Most Universal Credit recipients would be happy to get £30 of relief from Mr Malthouse let alone £30million.

Mr Malthouse has a blog, which is a must-read if you have trouble sleeping in this humid weather. Most notably, instead of skyscrapers he argues for building underground. He has little to say on housing but takes a strong ‘localist’ stance on planning, campaigning to make sure that no permissions would be granted outside the envelope of approved local and neighbourhood plans (he doen’t think much of planning inspectors and their decisions). To give him some credit, given his previous ‘zero tolerance’ approach to homelessness, in 2007 he became an early supporter of what is now known as ‘Housing First’.

I hold out little hope for a significant change in direction or even that Mr Malthouse will still be in post to attend next June’s CIH conference. The odds are still against, but I harbour a dream that the 2019 keynote speech will be made by the new Secretary of State for Housing John Healey.

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Shifting Housing’s Overton Window

It’s a sign of a remarkable comeback for social housing that the new CIH report ‘Rethinking Social Housing’ contains few surprises. Only 3 years ago this report would have seemed a radical contradiction of the dominant narrative. It probably would have been attacked for lacking realism and harking back to the long lost 1970s.

Social housing reached its nadir around and after the 2015 General Election. It was unaffordable, past its sell-by date, consigned to the history books as the government and most of the housing industry focused their concerns on ‘the only game in town’, building homes that did not require grant, at significantly higher ‘Affordable rents’ or market prices, pushing forward with policies (right to buy, ‘conversions’, market sales) that would feed the development programme.

Housing’s ‘Overton window’ – the range of ideas tolerated in public discourse – had become very narrow indeed and those of us who argued for social housing were made to feel oddballs well outside mainstream opinion. So it was that the very expensive National Housing Federation ‘Homes for Britain’ campaign prior to the 2015 Election choked on the words social housing. Joining the newly formed SHOUT campaign for social housing felt like heading upstream without a paddle.

So, what explains the turn-round between then and now, when the government is allocating funds specifically for new social housing, everyone is reviewing and rethinking the purpose of social housing – coming to the conclusion that it is an essential component of a fair and functioning housing market – and CIH feels confident enough to describe it as ‘a pillar of the welfare state’ without provoking guffaws of laughter?

Here are several possible factors. First, the refusal of tenants, campaigners, many people working at the grassroots in housing, and a few brave housing leaders, to stop banging the drum for genuinely affordable (as opposed to joke affordable) housing. Second, over-reaching by the Tories so their housing policies and the consequent rise in homelessness just confirmed their lack of empathy for poor and disadvantaged people. Third, the advent of unashamedly pro-social housing Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership, which changed the nature of the debate in the Labour Party. Fourth, the general public, who did not obey the rules of the Overton window because they never lost sight of the simple idea that council housing was a good thing – even if they also thought it was subsidised and not for them. And fifth, Grenfell, which changed everything.

The new CIH report reflects a lot of background work with tenants and the sector and demonstrates that social housing is firmly back within the spectrum of acceptable thought. It identifies 3 key themes:

  • Social housing, its affordability and the security it offers to people living there, are highly valued
  • It has much wider value by allowing residents to prosper and thrive, through its contribution to tackling poverty, the success of local and national economies, and individual health and well-being
  • However, there is stigma attached to social housing as a ‘product’ and to the organisations providing it and the people living in it

And so,

“Social housing has a unique and positive part to play in housing people, helping to create thriving, mixed communities, and meeting needs that the market will not. Done right it does great things. But it isn’t always the case that homes and neighbourhoods are well managed and well maintained and it’s important that we own and address this.

“It’s time to reclaim the role of social housing as a pillar of the society we want to be, along with free health care and education – and it must be at the centre of government plans to solve the housing crisis. And, having ‘reclaimed’ the role of social housing, we need to push on – creating an ambitious vision of what a plentiful supply of social housing can do help people thrive in communities that prosper.”

Some of the information in the report might surprise a general reader. For example, registered unemployment amongst social housing tenants is only 8%. The vast majority are either in work, retired or unable to work due to physical or mental disability or carers. Homeless people also take up around a quarter of lettings, far fewer than might be imagined.

The report contains a helpful discussion of the question ‘who is social housing for?’ based on a wide range of views from the public and the sector. The answer seems to be that ideally people want the sector to be ‘for anyone’ but that pragmatically it will remain highly rationed for many years to come. Given the vital role that security of tenure plays in enabling people to become established in their neighbourhood and having a platform on which to build their future, it is remarkable to note that there are still widely differing views on whether social housing should be a long term solution or, given scarcity, a short-term, reviewable, stepping stone.

CIH look forward by identifying six areas for further action, with some detailed proposals attached to each – including, for example, a call to suspend the right to buy which might become the headline proposal for the report.

  1. there should be a new definition of social housing to get away from the current confusion.
  2. tenants must have a greater voice.
  3. there should be an increase in the supply of ‘genuinely affordable’ homes.
  4. everyone should be able to afford a place to call home, with a move towards income-related rent-setting.
  5. homes and neighbourhoods should be better managed.
  6. there should be greater efforts to challenge the stigma and stereotyping attached to social housing.

It’s a reasonable agenda. And given the general  drift back to accepting the importance of social housing it will be fascinating to see how far the government is willing to go when it releases its Green Paper before the summer recess.

 

 

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Let our Municipal Dreams flourish once more

John Boughton’s ‘Municipal Dreams’ website was a breath of fresh air when it first appeared four or five years ago. The Government had ended direct investment in new social rented homes, the housing sector had all but given up the struggle, and the council housing finance reforms, developed by John Healey when Labour was in power but implemented by the Tories in 2011, which had offered hope for a new generation of council homes, had been undermined to the point where they had become almost worthless.

It felt like a last act of defiance when the SHOUT campaign for social housing was launched in 2014 – although things were to get worse (the 2015 Housing and Planning Act) before they started to get better. And then Grenfell changed everything.

‘Municipal Dreams’ took a different approach from the economic and political arguments that SHOUT deployed. The website started with the aim of championing the pioneering achievements of local government but came to focus more specifically on council housing, looking at the social and architectural history of estates around the country. Although never pulling punches about the errors made, Boughton bred confidence amongst we readers that many of our council housing estates were good places to live, were well designed and well constructed, and could provide good homes for many years to come. It directly contradicted the characterisation by the media, some politicians, and even some people in housing, that council estates were all high rise concrete jungles, failed communities, brutal places that housed inadequate and workshy people that were ‘dependent’ on benefits. It became a must read.

Boughton’s book, also called ‘Municipal Dreams’ but subtitled ‘The Rise and Fall of Council Housing’, pulls together his remarkable knowledge of council estates all over the country – their planning, their development, their design, and their occupation – to illustrate the history of national council housing policy and finance and to comment on the successes and failures. The book starts where it ends, at Grenfell. Describing the devastating personal tragedy for those involved, Boughton also puts the disaster in its historical context: Grenfell, he says, is ‘an awful culmination to deeply damaging policies pursued towards council housing, and the public sector more widely, since 1979.’

Great value – you can buy Municipal Dreams here at half price if you move quickly!

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The early chapters of the book describe the development of council housing and the ideals that drove those who planned, financed and built it to replace the old slums. He leads us into ‘the great programme of council house building which transformed our country, overwhelmingly for the better, up to the 1980s’. For those that like it, there is architectural detail which sometimes passes me by, but each example is always firmly linked to the policy and politics of the time. He dwells on the high point of Aneurin Bevan’s policy of building to high standards despite post-war austerity and the 1960s system-build revolution which provided so many homes but created as many problems, not because of the quality of the homes themselves but because of the quality of the build and structural flaws.

Later chapters, post 1979, become more political in nature, but that can be put at Thatcher’s door because she managed to politicise and polarise everything. He describes the long process of ‘residualisation’ of council housing – the narrowing of the social make-up of estates – and the emergence of so-called ‘problem estates’. I tend to disagree with his assessment of the impact of the 1977 Housing (Homeless Persons) Act. I don’t think the Act changed the social composition of council housing in the way that is often assumed – I think that is largely down to mass unemployment and the collapse in supply – although it did bring more people classified as ‘vulnerable’ (sometimes very young households or people with frail mental or physical health) into a sector which did not have the resources to ensure that these households were properly supported and integrated into communities.

Boughton’s assessment of the New Labour period is more of a lament. Council housing was hardly a New Labour thing. Very few new council homes were built, that job went to housing associations, but the Labour government did invest enormously and to its credit in bringing the long-neglected council housing stock up to a ‘decent’ standard, with millions benefitting from new kitchens and bathrooms and windows. But it was all done with an ideological edge that council housing should be distanced from the council either by transfer to a housing association or PFI body or by separation into an arms-length management organisation. His judgement, with which I agree, is therefore that ‘New Labour and its chosen agents improved both its fabric and management, but in a way which perpetuated the prejudices against it and undermined the values which sustained it.’

Ultimately, Boughton sees council estates as the victims of ‘our social and economic woes’ and not a cause. Those problems are disproportionately visited on the poorest people, and they are disproportionately – and quite rightly – housed on council estates. We should view council estates, he argues, ‘not as a problem but as a solution – offering secure and affordable housing – to the low pay and insecure employment which affects so many’.

Special attention is paid to the period after 2010, the huge rise in rents and therefore in housing benefit, abominations such as the bedroom tax and the welfare caps, and the removal of security of tenure in newly-let homes, culminating in the 2015 Housing and Planning Act which confirmed the government’s apparent intention to eliminate council housing. And he lambasts some of the many ‘regeneration’ (ie redevelopment) schemes being pursued on council estates, taking particular exception to the description of council estates as ‘brownfield sites’ and David Cameron’s rehash of every cliché and stereotype to justify his plans to redevelop 100 ‘sink estates’. Boughton believes some of these ‘regeneration’ schemes are ‘a desecration’.

The book identifies a little light at the end of a very dark tunnel: in the small new schemes of council housing around the country, and the significant shift in the politics of council housing brought about by the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the horror of Grenfell. He ends with the hope that ‘a fuller and more nuanced understanding of both past achievements and current follies may yet shift this politics and allow our municipal dreams to flourish once more’.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

boughton2

 

For anyone with an interest in (or even an obsession with) housing policy, the book is a great read. It has the detail which comes with real research but never loses sight of the long-term or the political framework. It is both about the extraordinary legacy of council housing and – if the politics can change – the enormous possibilities that exist in the future.

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Don’t consult on it. DO IT

Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister, John Healey, spoke for me, and I suspect millions of others, when he attacked the Government’s response to the Hackitt review today: Don’t consult on it. Do it!.

john healey

The issue was specifically whether to ban combustible materials like flammable cladding. Most commentators who know anything about anything had called for a ban. Grenfell survivors called for a ban. But Hackitt failed to recommend a ban, despite all the logic of her report and the fact that she said on Radio 4 that she would support it if the Government did it. New Secretary of State James Brokenshire offered a ‘consultation’. Fudge. Delay. Backslide.

The lesson we learn from the Ronan Point collapse, the Lakarnal House fire, and now the Grenfell fire is, sadly, that we’re not very good at learning lessons. Brokenshire talked about creating ‘a culture that truly puts people and their safety first’. Cladding has failed safety tests on hundreds of buildings. Not just council blocks but housing association and private homes too. Surely, surely, this is the time when it would be far better to over-react and be ultra safe than to under-react and leave even an outside chance of it happening again?

It is sad in a way that Dame Judith Hackitt’s report (full version here) has failed on something so vital and central, and that the Government’s response has been so pathetic, because it is in many ways an excellent analysis of the issues with many worthwhile conclusions. She confirms that the system of building regulations and fire safety is NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE and that a ‘culture of indifference (has been allowed) to perpetuate’. The system is unclear, ambiguous, inconsistent, with weak compliance. Crucially, ‘the voices of residents often goes unheard’.

Hackitt proposes a new regulatory framework which must be delivered as a package, not piecemeal. This is vital, she says, because only a joined-up implementation plan will provide the coherent approach that is needed. Her broad conclusions and main proposals for a new system have much to commend them.

The new system “must strengthen regulatory oversight to create both positive incentives to comply with building safety requirements and to effectively deter non-compliance. It must clarify roles and responsibilities. It must raise and assure competence levels, as well as improving the quality and performance of construction products. Residents must feel safe and be safe, and must be listened to when concerns about building safety are raised.”

Dame Judith Hackitt

In the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell fire no-one believed that backsliding would be possible. Surely this was such a calamitous event that everything would change. The appalling response of Kensington and Chelsea council surely meant the Tories would never be elected there again. Government promises that money would not be an obstacle and that everything possible would be done would surely be kept. Yet here we are, with the Tory council re-elected, a 9 month delay before the Government is forced to say it will ‘fully fund’ fire safety works (and we will watch that one closely), no commitment on sprinklers and ‘consultation’ on banning combustibles. And many families not yet rehoused.

grenfellSurely this was such a calamitous event that everything would change.

Urgent language has not led to urgent action. Powerful speeches have not led to powerful changes. Big promises have disappeared into an interminable inquiry that drifts on and on. It took Theresa May most of a year to conclude that Sir Martin Moore-Bick should not sit alone. The feeling that the British state has become callous and indifferent has been reinforced since Grenfell by Windrush and other scandals.

Next month sees the anniversary of the fire. It is a big moment, there will be a lot of raw emotion, but the demand for fundamental change needs to be heard loud and clear. This really must never be allowed to happen again.

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Converting offices into rabbit hutches is a bad idea

Five years ago Eric Pickles made one of the biggest blunders of his term as Secretary of State in charge of housing: he allowed offices to be converted into flats without any need to get planning permission. By classifying such conversions as ‘permitted development,’ Pickles deprived local authorities of any oversight of the process including not only whether the buildings were suitable for residential use, but also of the standards to which they were converted. Furthermore, normal rules applying to new building, like the requirement to provide a proportion of affordable accommodation as part of the deal, were thrown out of the window.

The result was a predictable disaster, and a new report by the RICS provides the evidence to show just how big a disaster it is proving to be. The strength of the report is in the quality of the evidence it provides: the researchers have not only collected the data but have visited converted buildings and documented the outcomes on site, in Camden, Croydon, Leeds, Leicester and Reading. It exposes the flaws in the government’s own impact assessment conducted in 2013.

The researchers find that some of the conversions were done to good standards. But many more are inadequate, and in many cases pretty shocking. Here are some instances of what the RICS found:

  • ‘studio’ flats of just 15 or 16 square metres in floor area (and overall less than one-third of them meeting national space standards)
  • no access to private or communal amenity space
  • buildings with barely any changes done to convert from office to residential use
  • residential developments in the middle of industrial estates
  • 77% of units in the case studies providing ‘studio’ or one bedroom flats, only catering to a very narrow segment of the residential market.

Author comparisons with Glasgow and Rotterdam, where similar conversions would require planning permission, show that much higher quality units could have been produced (and still, presumably, have been economically viable).

These projects affect not only those who buy or rent flats but the wider community, since the developer makes higher profits, pays no planning fees and – most importantly – makes no ‘developer contribution’ to affordable housing in the area. The authors calculate than in the case study areas alone this led to a potential loss of income of £10.8 million and of 1,667 affordable housing units, compared to the position if the same developments had been subject to local policies on providing affordable housing.

It’s not surprising that the office-to-residential scheme is summarised as a ‘fiscal giveaway’ from the state to private real estate interests. It’s left a legacy of poor quality housing that would have been avoided if the projects had needed full permission and the planning system had been properly applied.

None of this is surprising and perhaps from Eric Pickles’ point of view the scheme has still been successful because of the number of units it produced. After all, it was one element in the ripping up of regulations that characterised his period as Secretary of State. This saw a wider erosion of planning powers in general and of section 106 requirements in particular (the bit of legislation that requires developers to provide affordable housing), of which office conversions were only one element.

While there must be wider culpability for the weakening of building regulations that was an important factor in the Grenfell Tower disaster, there is no doubt that the fire was in part an outcome of the general contempt for ‘red tape’ that characterised the coalition government and has yet to be rectified under Theresa May.

Building regulations are now being reviewed via one of the wider inquiries following the fire. Indeed developer contributions, together with the ‘Community Infrastructure Levy’ (which these office conversions also enable developers to avoid), are under separate government review. The risk is that better regulation is restored only for narrow safety reasons, while wider standards relating to space, energy efficiency, wheelchair access and security continue to have gaping loopholes like the ones exposed by the RICS. This exemplary study shows that if developers are allowed to set their own low standards, and a pressured housing market allows the resultant flats to be sold or let, then rabbit hutches will be the result.

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Corbyn sets out Labour’s housing stall

Today saw the launch of Labour’s Green Paper focused on social housing – ‘Housing for the many’ – in Westminster. Together with Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey and the Leader of Leeds Council, Judith Blake, Jeremy Corbyn set out Labour’s housing stall for the local elections at the start of May and the General Election whenever it comes (speech here).

For Red Brick readers, the document addresses positively many of the most common themes seen in these pages over the past seven or eight years.

Jeremy Corbyn answers questions from journalists and the housing world at the launch.corbyn housing launch 2

Housing for the many‘ traces the history of social housing and its importance in meeting housing need, the failure to invest adequately in new social housing since 1980, and the Tories’ efforts to remove it entirely since 2010. Without repeating the evidence of the scale of housing need, well documented in these pages, or summarising the whole document here – it is worth a read in its entirety – we would like to highlight some key issues that have been been raised time and time again on Red Brick over the years. To mention just a few:

  • Tenant empowerment will be a key feature of the new approach. A new national voice for tenants will be established, tenants’ groups will be actively supported, and there will be consultation on a new requirement that tenants should sit on housing association boards. The regulatory regime will be strengthened to improve consumer standards and tenant involvement. Tenants’ rights will be strengthened – with the ban on long-term tenancies ended.
  • There will be a new definition of ‘affordable’ housing to tackle the increasing bizarre use of the word by the Conservatives. Labour will return to the key notion of ‘social rent’ with rents set by the existing national formula, and will scrap the Tories’ bogus ‘Affordable Rent’ (with rents up to 80% of market rents) in favour of a new ‘Living Rent’ linked to one-third of local earnings aimed at key workers and people on moderate incomes.
  • Recognising that building market homes alone will not tackle the housing affordability crisis, Labour will gear up to building 100,000 genuinely affordable homes a year, achieving 1 million over a decade. This is around six times the amount being achieved now and ‘would reach levels last achieved in 1978’.
  • There will be a proper focus on housing through a new stand alone Ministry and external checks on the progress Ministers are making towards meeting the housing targets.
  • Building social housing makes good economic sense – the document references the SHOUT report by Capital Economics – and will improve the public finances in the long term by reducing the cost of housing benefit.
  • One in eight social homes still fail the ‘decent homes’ standard despite the £20 billion investment improving 1.4 million homes made by the last Labour government. There is a new crisis – across all tenures, but here we are addressing social housing – in terms of fire safety and the urgent need to secure significant improvements following the appalling Grenfell fire. Grenfell survivors contributed to Labour’s review, and the document commits Labour to installing sprinklers in high rise flats.
  • Labour will act to stem the loss of social rented homes from the stock. This will include ending the scandalous practice of converting social rent homes to the much higher ‘Affordable Rent’ when they become empty, suspending the right to buy, and abandoning the Tories proposed policy of selling ‘high value’ council homes to fund a new housing association right to buy.
  • The plans will herald the start of a major shift away from personal subsidies towards investment subsidies – from ‘benefits to bricks’. Money will go towards ensuring affordable homes are built, not letting rents rip and letting housing benefit ‘take the strain’. Critically, Labour will restore the £4 billion housing investment programme that was in place in 2010 and look to negotiate a new 10 year rent settlement to keep rents affordable for tenants as well as supporting a sustained investment programme and a new ‘decent homes 2’ programme.
  • Labour’s investment policies will also include lifting the council HRA cap to prudential levels, and reviewing the way borrowing is recorded in the national accounts. New development on public land will be required to meet affordable housing requirements. Housing associations will be regarded as a key part of finding the solution to the affordable housing crisis, but there will be a renewed expectation that they will have social purpose at their core.
  • In private developments, Labour will remove the ‘viability loophole’ which allows developers to dodge affordable housing obligations and will change other planning rules which inhibit the provision of affordable homes.
  • Although not a paper that focuses on Labour’s social security policies, there are specific commitments to end the hated bedroom tax, protect housing benefit for the under 21s, and to pause and fix Universal Credit.
  • In regeneration, there is a repeated commitment to a ballot when demolition is proposed. There will be a minimum requirement that there should be no loss of social rent homes and new guarantees for existing residents.
  • There will be new commitments to improve design and reduce carbon emissions, together with new minimum space standards and a further extension of the Lifetime Homes standard.

It should be noted that, as a Green Paper, Labour is still open to comment and to revision of the policies before they are finally agreed. Everyone is encouraged to address the outstanding questions that the document highlights.

Labour’s document was launched by Shadow Secretary John Healey, Leeds Leader Cllr.  Judith Blake, and Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn at a packed gathering in Westminster. corbyn housing launch

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When will the LGA say ‘enough is enough’?

Another statement from the Chancellor, another failure to recognise the looming crisis in local government spending. It’s less than a week since the National Audit Office issued its report on the financial state of local councils, which even the LGA acknowledged was a ‘stark’ warning. But although the LGA says the government must ‘urgently address’ the funding gap, complaining that councils face a cliff-edge, the Chancellor obviously believes that most councils will simply put the brakes on and avert a catastrophe, and if a few overshoot the cliff-edge he can blame it on their incompetence.

The NAO report shows that councils are in a hard game of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Councillors know that, come what may, they have to try to keep social care functioning, the bins being emptied and the streets lit at night. Some of these services have even seen a small increase in funding (children’s care has been increased by 3.2% in real terms). The consequences for other areas of council work are indeed stark, and housing is one of them.

The report shows that spending in two areas – planning and development and housing services – fell respectively by almost 53% and 46% in real terms over the period 2010/11-2016/17. These two broad service areas have been those hit hardest by reductions in funding under the coalition and Tory governments.

But these figures hide even bigger falls in some aspects of those services. For example, spending on housing-related support has fallen by 69%. Many of these services met a range of needs, including those of homeless clients. Of course they include several services that help people in groups that the government claims to prioritise, such as those with mental health problems or who are victims of domestic violence. They provide the help that numbers of people need to sustain their tenancies and avoid homelessness. Spending on private sector renewal is another victim – it has been cut by 63%. Development control – which among other things helps secure a flow of housing land for new building – has suffered a 53% cut. Expenditure on temporary accommodation, however, has rocketed by 57%, because most councils that don’t have enough homes for the homeless are inevitably often forced to place them in high-cost private lettings.

Councils will soon face higher costs, because they will take on a new set of obligations when the Homelessness Reduction Act takes effect in April. The legislation is welcome, but massively underfunded: some £61 million is being allocated outside London and £11 million in the capital. No one thinks this is enough.

Council housing, in the meantime, as not been subject to the same cuts because it is paid for entirely from tenants’ rents. But of course it has been pushed to absorb more and more costs of services that should be paid from general funds, with tenants seeing service reductions as a result. Councils can hardly be blamed for looking for ever more ingenuous ways to cross-subsidise services but neither should tenants be expected to be complacent about what their rents are used for.

One leader of a local government body, Jonathan Carr-West of the Local Government Information Unit, has spoken up: ‘Councils are running out of money fast’ he says, ‘We have already seen one county council go under and others may soon follow unless the government takes action now’. The LGA wrings its hands and urges the government ‘to provide the financial sustainability and certainty needed to protect the local services our communities rely on’. John McDonnell got it right when he said in response to the Chancellor, ‘We face – in every public service – a crisis on a scale we’ve never seen before… Our public services are at breaking point and many of our local councils are near bankruptcy’. He criticised the ‘indefensible spectacle’ of a chancellor ‘failing to lift a finger’ to help struggling local authorities. From Philip Hammond the looming catastrophe brought not a single word.

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Red Brick Briefing: Can offsite manufactured housing (OSM) play a key role in solving the housing crisis by ensuring that new supply targets are met?

In a new departure for Red Brick, we are publishing a ‘long read’ briefing paper rather than the usual blog post. It’s been researched and written by Ross Fraser, who has become a regular contributor to the site. He wanted answers to some basic questions about Offsite Manufactured Housing and to find out whether some of the claims for it – on cost, speed of delivery, quality, environmental impact – stood up to scrutiny.

In his conclusion, he asks what approach an incoming Labour government, committed to an expansion in housing supply in general and genuinely affordable housing in particular, should take to OSM – because some people see OSM as making the difference between success and failure.

Although significantly longer than our usual blogs at over 3,000 words, we hope you find this briefing format useful. We hope it helps stimulate debate about a key issue that the housing industry has to address over the next few years.  Steve Hilditch

 By Ross Fraser

Can offsite manufactured housing (OSM) play a key role in solving the housing crisis by ensuring that new supply targets are met?

  1. Why the construction industry crisis threatens new supply targets

The government has set a ‘new supply’ target of 300,000 homes per year.  Labour has adopted a similar target, with the proviso that it must include 100,000 social homes per year.  The GLA has set a target of 90,000 new affordable homes over five years.  Other regionally devolved administrations have also set ambitious new supply targets.

Under normal circumstances, these targets would be challenging.  However, there is growing concern that the construction industry will be unable to meet this demand if it is primarily reliant on traditional building techniques.

The construction sector crisis takes three forms:

  • low productivity and rising cost
    • housebuilding methods haven’t changed much in 150 years and productivity has flat-lined
    • build costs are 24 times higher in 2015 than they were in 1971 (a real-terms increase of 1.78)
    • this is largely because homes are hand-built, using labour intensive methods, in largely uncontrolled conditions
    • materials costs are still rising, partly due to shortage of bricks, as are skilled labour costs for reasons explained below
  • an acute skills shortage in the housebuilding industry
    • the average age of the construction workforce is increasing – the industry is likely to lose 620,000 domestic workers (c25% of current labour) to retirement by 2026 (source: Farmer Review 2016)
    • the industry is struggling to replenish this loss of capacity with new entrants – partly because all-weather outdoor working is not attractive to many
    • the past and current shortage of labour has forced building firms to increase the proportion of tradespeople from abroad, often at higher wages, thus increasing the cost of traditionally-built homes
    • much of the EU construction labour force is likely to depart post-Brexit
    • major construction projects such as Crossrail or HS2 can absorb large proportions of the available workforce
  • reduction in build quality

There is a growing body of opinion that the new supply targets cannot be met without innovation in the construction supply chain – through the adoption of Offsite Manufactured Housing (OSM).

Proponents of OSM argue that it can increase the productivity and cost of construction, improve the thermal efficiency of new homes and reduce the environmental impact of development.   The DCLG White Paper notes that:

“industry reports suggest homes constructed offsite can be built up to 30% more quickly than traditional methods and with a potential 25% reduction in costs.”

Proponents of OSM suggest that there are four markets where OSM may have a major role to play:

  • speculative volume build – by major developers, for sale
  • custom build – by owner occupiers, often on small sites
  • Build to Rent – by institutional investors, for long term rent
  • social rented or shared ownership housing – councils and housing associations seeking to build at scale often with no or minimal grant subsidy

The GLA recently noted that in the only two post-war periods when mass public housing took place, OSM played a key role:

  • post-1945 prefabs – low rise with gardens
  • mid-60’s to mid-70’s systems-built construction – particularly on council estates and tower blocks

Three major recent documents address the potential OSM contribution:

 2. What exactly is OSM?

gla offsite

(photo: GLA)

The GLA report contains a helpful summary of what we mean by OSM.

OSM is an umbrella term for a system of house building that relies on individual components being ‘manufactured’ in a factory, transported to a site and mostly, or entirely, completed and assembled on location.  OSM is sometimes referred to as MMC (Modern Methods of Construction) modular housing or precision manufactured homes.

Offsite manufacturing is distinguished from ‘traditional’ building methods that rely on ‘linear construction’, where each stage of construction takes place on site and must be completed in sequence before the next phase of building can take place. Offsite construction allows most of these phases to be undertaken simultaneously. While site preparation, foundations and utility connections are being prepared, whole completed housing units are being built in a factory ready for final assembly and finishing in situ.

OSM housing comes in many different forms. Generally, there are five main categories used to classify the various construction systems:

  • Volumetric or modular (three-dimensional units produced in a factory, fully fitted out before being transported to site and stacked onto prepared foundations to form dwellings)
  • Panellised (flat panel units built in a factory and transported to site for assembly into a three-dimensional structure or to fit within an existing structure)
  • Hybrid (volumetric units integrated with panellised systems)
  • Sub-assemblies and components (larger components that can be incorporated into either conventionally built or factory-built dwellings)
  • Non-offsite manufactured element (innovative methods of construction used onsite and the use of conventional components in an innovative way).

 3. What are the benefits of OSM?

Collectively, the BSA, DCLG and LGA cite the following benefits:

Speed of construction

  • speeds construction by allowing building works to take place in parallel – as opposed to sequentially when traditional methods of construction are applied
  • speed of construction enables housing providers to realise a rental return earlier than in normal development – thus reducing the cost of development finance and overall risk

Reduced cost/risk

  • further reduces cost/risk by reducing reliance on the availability of skilled trades, mitigating the impact of adverse weather – and by minimising the cost of materials
  • lighter weight of OSM homes means they can be built on hard-to-develop sites more easily than traditional construction and require shallower, cheaper, foundations

Environmental benefits

  • environmental benefits from a reduced number of material site deliveries and the fact that OSM homes are generally more energy-efficient than traditional construction.  (There is some evidence that any reduction in construction traffic will apply primarily to smaller OSM homes – larger homes cannot be transported for on-site assembly in a single journey)

Quality of design

  • designing for manufacture is increasingly assisted by technology, including Building Information Management (BIM) software and parametric design. Digital construction enables the high quality that distinguishes OSM housing from its prefabricated predecessors

 Construction industry capacity

  • OSM requires less labour than traditional construction – private sector sources claim 60% less
  • OSM will create factory-based design and assembly jobs which are more attractive to new entrants than on-site all-weather traditional construction roles
  1. What are the risks of OSM and can they be mitigated?

None of the three reports examines the risks of OSM in any detail.  And none reflect on the tenant experience of living in the OSM-produced council estates built in the 1960’s/70’s, set out definitively in Lynsey Hanley’s ground-breaking book Estates.

A balanced assessment of the potential of OSM requires policy makers and providers to reflect on the following issues:

Safety

  • innovation carries risks, which are accentuated by the challenge of taking any product to the scale where cost efficiencies can be realised – e.g. quality control, shortage of qualified installers, etc.
  • poor site assembly can undermine environmental benefits and safety
  • OSM structures have a reduced carbon footprint by using less concrete and steel in favour of (primarily) timber components – but is timber (as some fire safety experts claim) latently less fire-resistant than concrete and steel?

Design

  • will space and other design standards be compromised in favour of cost and volume?
  • a Manufactured Housing Design Code is required to secure economies of scale – but how feasible is this, particularly until the findings of the Grenfell Inquiry are known?
  • OSM benefits are based on identical design. This may not be an issue in terms of custom-build or small infill developments – but if applied to larger social housing estates will this create an instantly-recognisable and quickly stigmatised form of housing like the systems-built estates of the 1960’s and 1970’s?
  • full OSM is better-suited to the construction of buildings of up to 4/5 storeys than high rise. It can however play a role in high rise (e.g. bathroom/kitchen pods)

Durability

  • how durable are OSM structures? The BSA report suggests that modern OSM methods are “so new that there can be little or no historical data demonstrating how they will weather and the likely lifespan they will have”
  • housing maintenance professionals have reported higher maintenance costs on previous OSM housing compared to traditionally-built homes. What evidence is there that modern OSM construction will easier and cheaper to maintain?

 Procurement

  • what has gone wrong with the government’s Accelerated Construction Programme? What does this tell us about the capacity of OSM construction? (see below)
  • can collective procurement processes be developed which share risks and prioritise quality rather than reduced cost? For example, can the Manchester deal (see below) be resurrected – there is understood to be an appetite to do so?

Finance and assurance

  • lenders are still cautious about the higher requirement for money up-front under OSM and by concerns about the durability of the dwellings

Marketing

  • can and should government back a marketing campaign to help improve understanding of OSM and remove the current stigma some associate with it?

Can these risks be mitigated?

Proponents of OSM argue that parametric design and/or BIM software can design-out the problems of earlier forms of OSM construction.   More evidence – certainly than can be found in the BSA, DCLG and LGA reports – is required to support this encouraging assertion.

The lending industry, responding in part to BSA exhortation, has set up the Buildoffsite Property Assurance Scheme (BOPAS) – a quality standard certification, ten-year warranty insurance scheme based on a risk-based detailed inventory of the performance of OSM-constructed homes – all accredited by the Lloyd’s Register.

BOPAS is intended to assure lenders, surveyors and valuers about the durability and maintenance costs of OSM construction and has the backing of BSA, CML, RICS, the developer Countrywide, lenders including Nationwide, Lloyds, Santander and RBS and insurers the Lloyds Register and Legal and General.

BOPAS is developing an accreditation scheme for quality OSM manufacturers, with 16 suppliers already accredited and around 20 currently seeking accreditation.  The GLA considers that the success of BOPAS is “crucial in instilling confidence in the sector”.

 5. Why has adoption of modern OSM been limited so far and how can its growth be stimulated?

The GLA Planning Committee notes some key impediments to the viability of OSM, including:

  • OSM is not cheaper unless procured at scale
  • optimum efficiency will rely on UK-based OSM factories – but they need confirmed orders at scale to become viable
  • lender and valuer conservatism about funding OSM – due to concerns about durability and longevity
  • public conservatism about OSM safety and durability – due primarily to documented failures of 1960/s and 1970’s system-built construction – has meant that the UK lags behind other nations in exploiting the potential of OSM

There are also some other reported challenges within the industry, including the (relatively) long lead-in periods required by manufacturers and a request to be paid up front in some instances.

Nonetheless, there is clear evidence of emerging private sector interest.

Notably, Berkeley Homes – the UK’s largest luxury property developer – is committing to 20% offsite construction and has announced a new factory in Ebbsfleet which will build 1,000 homes a year.  L&G has invested £55 million in an OSM factory in Leeds which has the capacity to supply 3,000 homes a year – L&G is a major institutional investor in Build to Rent. Laing O’Rourke has set up its own offsite-factory and has received £22m of government grant to accelerate the use of OSM in housebuilding.  SIG has developed a factory in Alfreton.  Smaller players include Vision Modular Systems, which has a factory near Bedford.  The custom-build industry is embracing OSM.

However, on its own, the private sector will not create an order book of 100,000 new OSM homes a year – the industry’s estimate of the critical mass required to sustain the development of the OSM industry and ensure that its output is cheaper than traditional forms of construction.

It is becoming clear that this target can only be achieved with the assistance of large scale procurement by councils, housing associations and ALMOs.  In the social housing sector, commitment to OSM is at an early stage but innovative organisations have been active in looking at OSM as a solution, including:

  • housing associations such as Accord, Swan, Richmond Housing Partnership (RHP), Your Housing
  • councils such as Manchester, Hackney and Lewisham
  • ALMOs such as Nottingham City Homes

However, Manchester’s joint OSM consortium with other Greater Manchester Councils and housing associations was unable to progress in 2017 despite having selected sites and a partner.  Your Housing has recently pulled out of a joint venture with Chinese investors, which was intended to lead to six OSM factories in the UK. Commercial risks for the private sector partners and the associated terms they demanded to address them are understood to be at the heart of the breakdown of both these deals.

Further action is required.

The BSA report seeks to persuade lenders, valuers and building insurers of the reliability of OSM.  Amongst other recommendations, the BSA proposes:

  • standard terminology for OSM/MMC to reduce confusion
  • greater standardisation of OSM design to give greater comfort to lenders
  • RICS valuation guidance to specifically address OSM
  • increased lender/insurer recognition of the Build Offsite Property Insurance Scheme (BOPAS)
  • that the government backs the BOPAS 10-year warranty on OSM construction to provide reassurance to lenders

In its White Paper, the Government committed to:

  • stimulate the growth of this sector through our Accelerated Construction programme and the Home Builders’ Fund
  • support a joint working group with lenders, valuers and the industry to ensure that mortgages are readily available across a range of tested methods of construction.
  • consider how the operation of the planning system is working for modern methods of construction (MMC) developments
  • work with local areas who are supportive of this type of manufacturing to deliver growth, provide jobs, and build local housing more quickly, and
  • alongside the Home Building Fund, consider the opportunities for offsite firms to access innovation and growth funding and support for them to grow

However, the government appears to be struggling in its attempt to boost OSM via targeted allocation of its Accelerated Construction Fund (ACF) and through its support for Custom Build.  The £2billion allocated to the ACF in the 2016 budget was then cut by £1bn in the 2017 budget and to £690 million in the 2018 Budget.

The GLA Planning Committee calls on the London Mayor to:

  • promote the use of OSM – particularly in the build-out of GLA-owned land, particularly TfL-owned sites
  • work towards defining and adopting a Manufactured Housing Design Code to drive a more standardised and aggregated demand profile
  • announce a further round of his Innovation Fund that is specifically focussed on OSM that would reflect the funding needs to support OSM developments
  • set up a London-specific OSM led procurement framework

The Mayor has responded by promising to:

  • set out in his London Housing Strategy how he will support a move to precision-manufactured housing and address some of the challenges faced by the OSM industry
  • provide funding for OSM homes via his Approved Housing Programme and his Innovation Fund and in strategic partnerships with housing associations
  • negotiate with government for a share in the Accelerated Construction Fund, on a flexible basis, to further support precision-manufactured housing in the capital
  • for the new London Development Panel to include experts in precision-manufactured homes
  1. Conclusion: what should an incoming Labour government do about OSM?

Proponents OSM argue that the government’s new supply target of 300,000 per year cannot be met without the use of OSM methods.  As the BSA report notes:

“utilising offsite construction methods offers a way of providing well designed, high quality, affordable homes at a faster rate than is currently possible.  If the UK doesn’t diversify its housing supply, the imbalance between supply and demand cannot practically be broken.”

The scale of the housing crisis, and the likely inability of traditional construction supply to respond, demands that OSM is developed as a viable at-scale option for future construction.   Proactive steps are urgently required.

However, caution in industry, social housing and in the lending, surveying and valuation sectors will only be overcome by compelling evidence that the mistakes of earlier forms of OSM construction will not be repeated.

What we build now will last a very long time. The recent review of 50 Years of the English Housing Survey points out that 97 per cent of houses that existed in 1967 are still in use (albeit in a different pattern of tenure).   Looked at another way, 60 per cent of stock we now have is more than 50 years old.   There is little or no evidence to date that OSM construction will last at least 60 years.

Mistakes in housing policy tend to be long-lasting. The first post-war housing minister, Nye Bevan, said:

“We shall be judged for a year or two by the number of houses we build. We shall be judged in ten years’ time by the type of houses we build’.

Therefore, the key message is not ‘avoid – too risky’ but ‘proceed vigorously but with care and transparency’.

In practical terms, an incoming Labour Government should:

  • actively investigate OSM
  • procure independent research into the causes of the failure of earlier historic versions of OSM and whether new technology can ensure that these problems will no longer occur
  • develop a properly-balanced and evidence-based assessment of the capacity of OSM
  • ‘bend’ funding programmes to secure the 100,000 new homes per year of supply required to prove its economic model
  • require as a funding condition that resident/consumer input is secured in the design of OSM homes delivered on housing estates
  • follow the (expected) lead of the GLA in defining and adopting a Manufactured Housing Design Code to drive a more standardised and aggregated demand profile
  • support and promote the BOPAS scheme

 

Ross Fraser, March 2018

 

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So how should we set social rents in future?

Today saw the launch of research on social rent policy commissioned by SHOUT, ARCH and the LGA and undertaken by the independent macroeconomic research organisation Capital Economics. The full report can be found here.

shout rents report launch eventLord Gary Porter speaking at the launch of the SHOUT/ARCH/LGA report. Photo: Rob Gershon

The idea of the research was to get an expert assessment of the options available for setting social rents in the future – so there can be a proper debate given the chaotic position of the current government, which first decided to cut rents for five years (designed to reduce the housing benefit bill, but only in the short run as more people are pushed into private renting) then decided to increase them by more than (consumer price) inflation.

There have been very few attempts to take an overview of all the implications of rents – to tenants, to the social security bill, and to the ability of providers to invest in the existing stock and new homes. There are even fewer attempts to examine the implication of rent policy at regional level – one size does not fit all and it is time rent policy reflected the very different conditions that apply in the different parts of the country.

The report sets the context for social housing in this country, contrasting the social sector ‘target rent’ regime that has been in place for 15 years with the current government’s ‘affordable rent’ regime which sets rents at up to 80% of local market rents. It emphasises why rents matter:

  • to the disposable income of tenants (linked to benefits policy) whether in work or not, to future investment where rent income has a surprisingly large impact on the ability of landlords to invest.
  • to the government’s fiscal position because significantly less housing benefit is needed to support a tenant living in social rented accommodation compared private rented housing – where a large slice goes to the profit of the landlord rather than being recycled into investment.
  • to the business plans of social landlords because rents not only pay for management and maintenance but also service existing debt and underpin future borrowing for investment.

Capital Economics considered the long term impacts of various policy options taking account of the above factors and concluded that a policy of raising rents by CPI plus 1% is broadly appropriate across most of the country, but that no single policy is optimal across the whole country. It is important to note their caveat – the modelling depends on various  assumptions coming to pass, notably that the benefit cap and local housing allowance rates increase in line with rents. Under such conditions, tenants on benefits will suffer no loss in disposable income due to the proposed ‘optimal’ rent increases, although tenants who are not in receipt of benefit would see a negative impact.

London and the south east, where private rents are highest, would see the largest fiscal saving from being able to move tenants from private rented housing to new social housing. They calculate that a real annual increase of 1.9 per cent after 2020 would enable sufficient social homes to be built to house all housing benefit claimants in private rented accommodation.

The report includes a detailed assessment of the position in each region. For example, for the north east, higher social rents would facilitate greater house-building, enabling 4,000 private tenants to move to social housing at ‘CPI +1%’, rising to 48,000 at ‘CPI +3%’. However, the increase in the cost of benefits to cover these higher social rents would largely offset this, and the overall impact of different policies on government finances would be minimal.

So the overall conclusions reached by Capital Economics are:

  • It was right to conclude that an annual cut in rents was unsustainable;
  • A single national policy should be replaced by regionally-based assessments, with different rates of increase in different areas;
  • A rent increase policy is only sustainable if there are corresponding increases in benefits and cap levels;
  • And finally, that rental income is only part of the story in terms of generating more investment – it is vital that government resumes grant for social housing and allows councils to borrow for HRA development, subject to the prudential code.

The report raises some crucial issues for the sector and it is rare to see anyone try to link the issues of tenants’ disposable incomes, benefit costs and investment together in such a coherent way. I would have liked to have seen more consideration given to the implications of ‘affordable rent’. Although social rented homes remain the biggest segment of social housing by far, that is not true of the additions to the stock over the past few years, and the process of ‘conversions’ (switching homes from social to ‘affordable’ rents when they become vacant) has had a huge impact over the past few years. As more than 100,000 homes have been ‘converted’, it would be interesting to know what effect that has had on disposable incomes, benefit costs and investment using the Capital Economics model.

But the biggest challenge, whatever the logic of the analysis and the assessment of what is most optimal, is the question posed by SHOUT’s Martin Wheatley at the launch of the report:

“How do you explain to a hardworking low-income tenant that their rent needs to rise above inflation every year, shouldn’t government be investing in new social housing?”

As the Conservative chair of the LGA, Lord Gary Porter, made clear at the report launch: we have to let the state build and dispel the myth that state intervention is subsidy – it’s not, it’s investment in an asset, a security, and not just a debt.

 

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Right to buy is not the biggest reason for the fall in social renting

Why did the number of homes let at social rents fall by 150,000 in the last five years? Surprisingly, although right to buy was a big factor, it wasn’t the biggest. From April 2012 until the same month in 2017, right to buy led to 55,000 council houses sales and 20,000 by housing associations (the latter is because of the ‘preserved’ right to buy kept by tenants if their homes are transferred to a new landlord). So half the net loss can be explained by such sales.

But there were two much bigger factors behind this recent assessment by the Chartered Institute of Housing of the losses in social rented stock. First, new build would easily have offset right to buy sales if output of social rented homes had continued at the same rate as in the previous four years: from 2008/09-2011/12, thanks to the investment made under Labour’s National Affordable Housing Programme (NAHP), 142,000 social rented homes were built, over 35,000 per year. Had this continued, social landlords would have built two new homes at social rent for every one sold, even after right to buy was ‘reinvigorated’ with bigger discounts from April 2012. As it is, the Tories are clearly poised to fail in their much more limited promise to replace the extra houses sold as a result of the right to buy being ‘reinvigorated’, and of course the replacements are all likely to be let at higher, ‘affordable’ rents.

Nevertheless, some new homes are being built for social rent. Adding together new homes built by housing associations and by local authorities, these total just over 50,000 over the five years. Not only is this far lower than achieved under Labour’s NAHP but numbers are now down to only 5,000 per year, with little prospect of their being revived. So in mathematical terms the biggest reason for the loss of social rented homes is failure to build: if Labour had still been in power, continuing a similar programme to its NAHP, around 125,000 more social rented homes would have been built than has been achieved by the coalition/Tory governments.

Increase in stock of ‘affordable’ rented homes, 2012-2017

Source: HCA, Private registered provider social housing stock in England 2016-2017.

So selling off the stock wasn’t the biggest reason for the loss of social rented homes, it was the failure to build. Oddly enough, right to buy wasn’t even the second biggest reason. The candidate for this status can be seen in the graph. From 2011 onwards, the coalition government set out to make a heavy dent in the provision of social rented housing in two ways. First, as we have seen, it built homes for ‘affordable’ rent instead of social rent, constructing about 90,000 up to April 2017. But second, it converted homes from social rent to ‘affordable’ rent at an even faster pace, with 102,000 conversions in total by the same date (shown purple in the graph, the green columns show the total AR stock from conversions plus new build). It forced associations to do this to give them extra rental income, to offset the loss of government grant (it fell from around £60,000 per new home built under Labour to less than £20,000 under the Tories). This is therefore easily the second most important factor in the decline of social rent.

Right to buy, whether for councils or housing association properties, is therefore the third biggest factor. But even this isn’t the whole story: both councils and housing associations have been demolishing social rented stock (for example, in regeneration schemes), and these losses run at around 4,000 per year.

In addition to these recent attacks on the social rented stock, it faces two more potential dangers: the new right to buy for housing association tenants, and the enforced sales of ‘high value’ council properties. At the moment, the first of these is only going ahead as a pilot scheme in the West Midlands, and will be funded by government. But the prospect of enforced sales of council houses, now less likely after the Grenfell Tower disaster, is still ‘on the books’ and is inhibiting many councils from taking on more ambitious investment plans. If right to buy for association tenants were to go ahead across the country, someone would have to fund the discounts and at the moment the only money potentially available is from forcing councils to sell off their better stock.

In this situation, Labour’s priorities should be clear: not only does it need an even more ambitious new build programme than it had when it was last in power, but this needs to focus strongly on building for social rent, as John Healey has promised. And the haemorrhaging of the existing stock must be halted too. This will mean, first, either suspending council tenants’ right to buy or at the very least making the discounts they receive much less attractive; second, rescinding the promise to housing association tenants that they can buy their homes and calling off ‘high value’ council sales; third, ending the conversion of properties to higher rents and, finally, ensuring that any regeneration schemes provide for at least one-for-one replacement of any social rented homes that are to be demolished.

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