Something you may have missed in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Tory party conference speech was the promise to deliver a ‘new generation of council houses’.  The speech indicated a change of direction, an admission that the market is ‘broken’ and that not-for-profit and/or state-funded social housing is needed.

‘In her speech, the prime minster promised another £2 billion in addition to the previously announced £7 billion affordable housing programme. The additional money will provide funding for council and housing associations who can “bid for funding” from this new pot. It is also understood that there will be a greater push to increase the supply of public land on which such new social housing may be built.’ Prof Kenneth Gibb

However, the amount of housing promised is actually quite small.

‘…the wheels swiftly fell off when the numbers were crunched. The money, a Conservative briefing note explains, will build only 5,000 extra homes a year. The Tory manifesto stated an aim to build 1.5m homes by 2022.’ The Guardian

Much will depend on what the Government’s green paper actually says. In September Communities secretary Sajid Javid promised a ‘wide-ranging, top-to-bottom review of the issues facing the sector’ including safety, housing quality, the rights of tenants, management, homelessness and wider community issues.

‘The forthcoming green paper on social housing will provide more flesh on the bones – but it needs to create the funding and regulatory environment to enable the not-for-profit and public sectors to build and grow. And to do so on a sustainable basis at genuinely affordable rents.’ Prof Kenneth Gibb

Councils argue local government has to be at the heart of housing solutions:

‘The last time the country built enough homes councils built 40% of them. Our offer is pretty clear, give councils to powers to lead a renaissance in council house building by letting us keep 100% of the sales receipts, and give us the freedoms to borrow to invest and to set rents.’ Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesperson

  • For an analysis of what we could learn from past decision-making on social housing, read Prof John Flint (University of Sheffield) on The Conversation [Feb 23 2016]

Theresa May announces £2bn for council homes expansion BBC News (Oct 4th 2017)

Theresa May’s speech and the challenge to expand English social housing
by Prof Kenneth Gibb of the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence, University of Glasgow, The Conversation (Oct 5th 2017)

What did May’s speech promise on housing? Not a lot Analysis article by Dawn Foster in The Guardian (Oct 4th 2017)

Javid launches social housing green paper LocalGov  (20 Sep 2017)

Posted 7th October 2017; updated June 30th 2018

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