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Welfare Reform on the Web (May 2007): Social housing - UK

Golden opportunity?

S. Taylor

Roof, July/Aug. 2008, p. 20-21

Major opportunities and challenges are confronting housing associations in their role of replenishing the UK's social housing stock, which has been decimated by right to buy disposals. The Housing Corporation's 2008-11 programme is set to involve:

  • Investment of 20bn in the development of 150,000 social rented dwellings, funded by 8bn social housing grant and 12bn private finance
  • Development of new social housing to increase from the annual average of 17,000 dwellings per year in 2006 to 30,000 per year in 2008-2011 and 50,000 per year thereafter
  • Development of homes for shared-ownership remaining stable at 20,000 per year, but generating profits needed to subsidise social housing.

Hidden danger

P. Malpass

Roof, July/Aug. 2008, p. 24-25

The Housing and Regeneration Bill currently before Parliament will abolish the Housing Corporation and replace it with two new bodies, the Homes and Communities Agency (responsible for investment in social housing) and the Office for Tenants and Social Landlords (responsible for regulation). This bill is considered to represent a threat to the independence of housing associations, but a greater threat may lurk in the background in the shape of the Cave Review. Cave advocated promoting a market in social housing by unbundling housing association activities and encouraging the involvement of for-profit companies. His review envisaged social housing development, ownership and management being undertaken by different organisations.

An ill wind

S. Taylor

Roof, July/Aug. 2008, p. 22-23

Report of an interview with Peter Marsh, deputy chief executive of the Housing Corporation, on the impact of the credit crunch on housing associations. The credit crunch and subsequent restrictions on mortgages for first-time buyers may kill demand for the 50,000 dwellings for shared ownership which housing associations are being asked to develop under current government plans. At the same time access to cheap private finance for the construction of social housing could be threatened by the continuing deterioration in housing association finances.

Leaner, not meaner

R. Best

Roof, July/Aug. 2008, p. 14

The Housing Act 1988 opened the door for housing associations to borrow from the private sector without the money being classed as public expenditure. The Act enabled housing associations to raise 40bn for social housing investment outside the public spending constraints set by the government and the Maastricht Treaty. The mistake that the then Conservative government made was to simultaneously cut public investment in social housing.

More gaffes please

C. Glossop

Roof, July/Aug. 2008, p. 11

The new mayor of London, Boris Johnson, focused in his election manifesto on schemes for extending home ownership. However, these schemes will benefit only a small proportion of Londoners. Instead, Johnson should develop a strategy for expanding the private rented sector using funding from institutional investors.

Rent to buy scheme for families looking for a new home

R. Prince

Daily Telegraph, July 17th 2008, p. 14

Couples with a combined income of 60,000 or less will be eligible to for a new 'rent to buy' scheme. Under the scheme, they will pay about four-fifths of the market rent. Once they have saved enough money for a deposit, they will be able to buy a share of the dwelling. Housing association properties are most likely to be included in the scheme. Ministers have also announced that 200m of public funds will be used by the Housing Corporation to buy empty properties from house builders and make them available for rent. In addition, four areas will get new local housing companies which will allow the council and the private sector to work together to build housing on surplus land.

The supply of rented housing

Communities and Local Government Committee

London: TSO, 2008 (House of Commons papers, session 2007/08; HC457)

Successive governments have championed the interests of owner occupiers and neglected tenants. Governments have a responsibility to ensure that tenants have the opportunity to live in a decent home, at a price they can afford, within a sustainable community. To achieve this goal they need to:

  • Encourage the creation of mixed communities where social rented housing sits alongside owner-occupied homes
  • Strengthen the regulation of the private rented sector to root out rogue landlords
  • Build more family homes in the social rented sector to reduce overcrowding
  • Increase the supply of social rented homes by about 50,000 a year
  • Support and enable local authorities to increase the supply of social housing
  • Reform housing benefit.
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