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Column 15th April 2020

Repay dedication of key workers with genuinely affordable homes

The latest Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) UK Housing Review was released on 30 March and makes stark reading.

It shows that only 11 percent of new homes built in England are at genuinely affordable social rents, compared with nearly 70 percent in Scotland and over 80 percent in Wales. England has lost 181,000 social rented homes since 2012 through right to buy and other causes, even taking into account the number of new homes built in that time.

To meet the backlog of housing need, the CIH and a coalition of housing and homelessness organisations has called for a ten-year investment programme of more than £12 billion a year to deliver 145,000 new homes annually, 90,000 of which would be at genuine social rent.

Historically, there were two types of social housing in the UK: social rent, which meant stable, long-term local authority housing with genuinely affordable rents, and intermediate affordable housing, which included programmes such as shared ownership.

In 2011 the government introduced a third type, “affordable rent”, which means that landlords and local authorities can set rents at up to 80 percent of market rates.

So what they're building is affordable rental properties and shared ownership homes which aren’t actually very affordable for most people who need them.

CIH chief executive Gavin Smart suggests that one of the impacts of the coronavirus will be an even greater need for homes that are genuinely affordable.

Planned government support for housing investment in England over the next five years shows that 75 percent of it will be pumped into the private market via schemes such as Help to Buy, etc..

That leaves just 25 per cent for affordable housing in England yet Wales is allocating 74 percent of its capital support to affordable housing, Scotland 85 percent and Northern Ireland 100 per cent.

In the recent Budget the Chancellor announced that the Affordable Homes Programme would be extended with a new multi-year settlement of £12bn from the start of the 2021/22 financial year – but will this be enough?

Here in Oxfordshire we have had great difficulty in recruiting key workers such as NHS and care staff in the last few years because they can’t afford to live here, so we really do need many more genuinely affordable homes and given the dedication of all of the low paid staff during the current crisis it would seem very churlish not to prioritise this as soon as possible.


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