Next PM should make affordable social housing a priority, says Scape Group

Scape Group chief executive Mark Robinson has called on the next prime minister to make “genuinely affordable housing a priority,” after the number of new homes delivered for social rent dropped below 1,000 homes for the fourth consecutive year.

Robinson’s comments come as Homes England published its report showing a significant increase in the number of affordable homes being built in England between April 2018 and March 2109. The report shows there were 45,692 new houses started on site under programmes managed by Homes England and 40,289 houses completed. These, say Homes England, are the highest levels of starts for nine years and the highest levels of completions for four years.

The figures claim that 67% of housing starts and 71% of housing completions were for “affordable homes,” an 11% increase on 2017/18 figures for completed affordable homes, and the highest numbers for four years.

Nick Walkley, Homes England chief executive, said: “At a time where the average house costs around eight times the average income, these are positive signs that the delivery of homes, and particularly affordable homes, is on the up. However, there is still a huge amount of work to do to make sure this trend continues. We’re just getting started and need the sector to join us in our mission to make sure we continue to deliver homes across the country for the people who need them the most.”

Housing minister Kit Malthouse said: “It’s great to see our housing accelerator has their foot firmly on the gas with nearly 29,000 new affordable homes finished last year. But there is more to do, and so this Government is providing serious support, including £44bn of funding and guarantees, to build more, better, faster.”

However, the Labour Party and the public sector procurement organisation the Scape Group have both called for social housing, rather than “affordable housing” to be given a much higher priority to help meet the demand of over one million people on housing waiting lists up and down the country, highlighting that the number of government-funded social rented homes being built is down by 96% since 2010.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: “Deep cuts to investment mean the country is now building 30,000 fewer social rented homes each year than we were when Labour was in government. After nine years of failure on housing, it’s clear the Conservatives have no plan to fix the housing crisis. They should back Labour’s long-term plan for a million new genuinely affordable homes, which will include the biggest council house building programme for nearly 40 years.”

Scape Group chief executive Robinson said the new figures were still far below the number of homes required to meet growing demand. He said: “It is especially concerning to see that the number of homes being delivered for social rent is under 1,000 for the fourth consecutive year. The model for delivering social housing has shifted in England and we now see the bulk of funding going towards Housing Associations. While the housing association model has proven itself highly effective for the management of estates, it is not building homes for social rent at the scale the country needs.

“Local authorities need to be given greater autonomy to build social housing themselves, where it is most needed, and deliver at the scale we saw in the mid-20th Century, when over 120,000 homes for social rent were being provided annually. To meet this demand, government must invest at scale in modern methods of construction, which would enable the efficient and effective delivery of new homes. The next prime minister needs to make genuinely affordable housing a priority. For too long the government of today has been distracted by Brexit to the detriment of other essential policy areas.”

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