A new council-built development in Hounslow will provide 19 new homes, with 80% of them offering 3-bed properties to rent. Good news for Hounslow. But otherwise the housing situation is bleak.
The second Housing Report published today by the National Housing Federation, Shelter and the Chartered Institute of Housing warns that the government is not doing nearly enough.
The number of new homes in England is up by six per cent – from 103,300 in 2010 to 109,020 last year. However, excluding 2010, this is still the lowest annual total since 1946 and falls below half of annual recommendations by the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit.
There is no denying the importance of building new homes – to promote health, jobs and social mobility – especially when some five million people languish on national housing waiting lists.
Housing minister Grant Shapps claims a “revamped Right to Buy” scheme would provide 170,000 new affordable homes by 2015 (over 55,000 annually), with £75,000 discounts for some council tenants to buy rented homes.
The government reassures councils that right-to-buy would be implemented on a strictly new-affordable-home-for-each-one-sold basis. But in practice the exponential increase in maximum buyers’ discounts – from £16,000 to £75,000 – means that local authorities across the capital are preparing to lose a high proportion of existing housing stocks.
On top of this, by exposing homes to higher market rates, the fewer homes on offer become harder to realistically hold on to. If a family of two adults and two children want to move into a three-bed flat like the new build in Hounslow, they must have a joint income of over £40,000 – above even the borough’s average gross income of £38,800. A single room would cost £13,714. So how affordable is “affordable?”
New homes, like the ones in Hounslow, will always make a huge difference on an individual level.
But in the midst of a nationwide housing shortage, new development should not be cause for celebration – it should be the norm. And until the government ups the ante in the sustainable provision of genuinely affordable and available housing, we won’t have a system we can all be proud of.