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

A foot on the ladder: low cost home ownership assistance

Committee of Public Accounts

London: TSO, 2007 (House of Commons papers, session 2006/07: HC 134)

An imbalance between the demand and supply of housing has resulted in recent years in increasing numbers of people finding it difficult to afford to buy their own home. The Department for Communities and Local Government provides financial help, via Registered Social landlords, to those who would otherwise be unable to buy, including key public sector workers in London and the South East and East of England. The report examines the Department and the Housing Corporation on how better targeting and further refining of the low cost home ownership assistance programme could improve efficiency and help more people.

The sudden rediscovery of housing supply as a key policy challenge

G. Bramley

Housing Studies, vol. 22, 2007, p. 221-241

There is a problem of inadequate and unresponsive housing supply in England which is resulting in a long-term rise in the price of homes, differentiated by region. The root of the problem is the operation of the planning system, which overly restricts the amount of land released for development. The Barker Review proposed a radical reform of the planning system, based on the concept of housing affordability. It proposed that more land should be released for development if house prices in a particular region rose due to shortages. It also called for more social housing and more investment in infrastructure.

Towards the more effective use of housing finance and subsidy

K. Gibb and C. Whitehead

Housing Studies, vol. 22, 2007, p. 183-200

During the period 1975-2000 successive UK governments undertook a significant restructuring of housing finance. The objectives of this restructuring included reducing public expenditure, lessening subsidies from the public purse for those able to pay for their own housing, and targeting available subsidy on those most in need. This article evaluates the extent to which four specific policies met these objectives:

  1. the removal of mortgage tax relief
  2. the Right to Buy
  3. restructuring social housing finance
  4. Housing Benefit reform.

Welfare safety net or tenure of choice? The dilemma facing social housing policy

S. Fitzpatrick and H. Pawson

Housing Studies, vol. 22, 2007, p. 163-182

There are fundamental tensions underlying the New Labour government's policy objectives on access to social housing in England. Ministers remain committed to the 'safety net' role of social housing, but at the same time have ambitions to widen its appeal so that it becomes a 'tenure of choice' for those not in acute housing need. Consumer choice in social housing has been promoted by the replacement of needs-based allocation systems with choice-based lettings schemes. Under these schemes properties are advertised and prospective tenants have to bid for them, with needy applicants being given priority. However, it is difficult to see how, in high demand areas such as London and the South, social housing can widen its role from that of safety net for the most disadvantaged unless there is a significant expansion in new building. This is highly unlikely to occur.

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