The demand for social housing available to rent in England is reaching breaking point. Local authorities – who are responsible for meeting local housing needs – are becoming increasingly concerned, as is the public. The latest official figures from the Local Authority Housing Register for England show that the average local authority has over 3,500 families on its council housing waiting list. In England alone, 1.25m families remained on the waiting list for social housing between 2016-17. Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of families had been waiting for a home for more than a year.
Scape recently surveyed local authority officers with management responsibility for housing in their council, and found:
- 100 per cent would like to be able to fund and build more housing for social rent directly in their area.
- 35 per cent explained that the skills shortage within the construction industry was one of the main barriers preventing councils from building more housing in their area.
- 24 per cent commented that slow construction was a major barrier, rising to 42 per cent in the Midlands, Eastern England, and Yorkshire.
Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive, comments: “The housing association model has proven itself highly effective for the management of estates, however it is not building homes for social rent at the scale the country needs.
“There are approximately 1,700 housing associations in England. In 2017/18, registered providers based in England, representing 89 per cent of the UK housing association stock completed just 4,500 homes for social rent. This is not simply the result of short-term factors like Brexit, the Rent Reduction Policy, or Right to Buy. This is a long-term problem.
“Delivering a step change in providing homes for our communities demands a radical solution.
“That answer lies in the past. Councils must be empowered to build social housing themselves – as they were in the 1970s before housing associations started to occupy a key role as non-governmental delivery agents for the provision of social rented housing. In 1977, when new social housing remained the responsibility of councils 121,000 homes were built.
“To return to the halcyon days of social rented housing construction, local authorities must find a way to persuade Government they are best-positioned to address the challenge and that they have a credible plan to achieve results. Local authorities will need to demonstrate they have a plan to circumvent problems, such as the skills shortage in the construction industry, that could hold back a huge increase in the construction of social rented homes.
“So we truly see a revolution in council building, the government needs to consider ways of adjusting the planning system to create fast track routes for modular homes to be built.”