Property

90% of councils believe government housing schemes are driving up homelessness

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29th March 2016
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A new snapshot survey published by the Local Government Association has found that homelessness and housing waiting lists will increase as government backed housing schemes continue to reduce the number of desperately-needed homes available to communities.

The LGA poll asked housing stock-owning councils in England what the impact of a range of government housing policies would have on their local area by 2020.

The overwhelming majority of councils responding to the survey (90%) said reforms – including extending Right to Buy, cuts to social housing rents and Pay to Stay  – will lead to a drop in the number of much needed council homes in their local area.

Many predict that the reforms will lead to a rise in homelessness (78%) and demand for temporary accommodation (80%) in their community while the majority (81%) expect their council housing waiting lists will increase as a result.

Four in five councils responding to the survey (82%) said investment in estate development or regeneration would decrease by 2020 and 58% of councils said housing benefit spending will increase, a likely consequence of more people being forced into the private rented sector.

With the Housing and Planning Bill being voted on by Lords next month, the LGA is calling for councils to retain 100% of receipts from any council homes they sell, and to gain greater flexibilities to replace homes sold through the council Right to Buy scheme.

Social housing tenants unable to afford market rents will need to be protected from the unintended consequence of Pay to Stay. The LGA said the policy should be voluntary for councils who should be able to retain any additional income generated to reinvest in new and existing homes.

Cllr Peter Box, LGA Housing spokesman, said: “Our snapshot survey shows some councils fear aspects of the Housing and Planning Bill will all but end their ability to build new homes by cutting billions from local investment in new and existing council housing. Local authorities will also then be forced to sell existing council homes and will struggle to replace them and there is a fear this will combine to drastically reduce the number of homes available in local communities.

Local authorities are keen to get on with the job of building the new homes that people in their areas desperately need. Instead, housing reforms that reduce rents and force councils to sell their homes will make building new homes all but impossible.

With 68,000 people already currently living in temporary accommodation, more than a million more on council waiting lists and annual homelessness spending of £330 million – there is a real fear that this lack of homes will increase homelessness and exacerbate our housing crisis.

While private developers have a crucial role to play in solving our chronic housing shortage, it is clear that they cannot rapidly build the 230,000 needed each year alone. There is no silver bullet, but we will not resolve our housing crisis without a dramatic increase of all types of housing, including those for affordable and social rent alongside those to support home ownership.

New homes are badly-needed and we will only see a genuine end to our housing crisis if councils are given the powers to get on with the job of building them too.”

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