Just as the UK Parliament is about to be dissolved, two House of Commons select committee reports have been published criticising Government plans to fix a broken housing market and address homelessness in England.
The Housing: State of the Nation report states the number of homes built in England has lagged behind demand for decades making it difficult for people to buy or even afford their rent.
The Capacity in the homebuilding industry report reiterates that the housing market is broken and that to fix the broken market, both risk and volatility must be reduced, especially for small and medium developers. It states local authorities do not yet have the tools they need to make an effective contribution to solving our housing crisis. The report suggests self-build has greater potential to contribute to output and that the industry faces a skills crisis and more needs to be done to support further education routes into the construction industry.
“If the country remains dependent on volume housebuilders to meet our housing demand, then the housing market will continue to be shaped by the cyclical nature of the economy. This is why we believe that public money can be used to increase housing output and to protect the sector against market cyclicality.” Capacity in the homebuilding industry [28 April 2017] Summary
Both reports report criticise Department for Communities and Local Government plans, in the February housing white paper, for remaining dependent on the existing market, dominated by a handful of private developers, to build the one million homes it seeks to create. According to the State of the Nation report, even if achieved, this will not come close to meeting actual housing need, meaning problems of affordability and homelessness are ‘likely to persist for years to come’.
The State of the Nation report also criticises the lack of information on the value for money the £21 billion the government spends each year on housing benefit provides.
- The ‘housing gap’ is growing: Between 2001 and 2010 an average of only 144,000 new homes were completed annually -100,000 fewer per year than in the 1970s. The Government estimates between 225,000 and 275,000 additional homes are needed each year. This shortfall increases the scale of the housing gap between supply and demand. The report recommends Government publish a ‘housing gap’ statistic.
- It points to the growing problem of homelessness, with the number of families living in temporary accommodation rising from 50,000 in 2011–12 to 72,000 in 2015–16. (NB: The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 received Royal Assent on 27th April – see Homelessness page.)
- It recommends research be done on how many non-decent homes in the private rented sector are being subsidised through housing benefit, the total amount of housing benefit this represents, and ways to raise the quality of the housing government subsidises.
“Too often, the Government is subsidising landlords in the private rented sector to provide homes below a decent standard.” Housing: State of the Nation [25 April 2017] Conclusion.
“Not only does becoming homeless people represent a terrible blight on people’s lives, it also places additional strain on public spending: councils’ spending on temporary accommodation amounted to £840 million in 2015–16, a real-terms rise of nearly half (46%) in just five years.” Housing: State of the Nation [25 April 2017] Conclusion.
- Problems of homelessness and affordability likely to persist for years [28 April 2017] http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/news-parliament-2015/housing-report-published-16-17/
End dominance of big homebuilding firms to fix broken market [29 April 2017] http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/communities-and-local-government-committee/news-parliament-2015/homebuilding-report-16-17/
MPs say ‘dominance’ of big home-building firms must end [BBC News 29th April 2017] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39752869
- Housing: State of the Nation [25 April 2017] https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmpubacc/958/95802.htm
- Capacity in the homebuilding industry [28 April 2017] https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmcomloc/46/4602.htm
- Housing white paper and supporting documents setting out the government’s plans to reform the housing market and boost the supply of new homes in England [7 February 2017] https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/housing-white-paper
- The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2017/13/contents/enacted