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Scape Group calls for ambitious renewal of council housebuilding

Scape Group calls for ambitious renewal of council housebuilding. Photo shows RIBA Stirling Prize Award-winning council housing in Goldsmith Street, Norwich.

Public sector procurement specialists The Scape Group have called on councils to be given more power to build social housing, after new figures showed an 80% decrease in the number of homes being built for social rent over the last 10 years. 

Latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) showed that 57,485 “affordable” homes were completed in England between April 2018 to March 2019, an increase of 22% compared to the previous year.

However, according to Scape, only 5,447 of those homes were for social rent by housing associations, marking an overall 80% decrease in homes being built for social rent over the past 10 years.

Scape’s rallying call is another indication of a welcome sea change in attitudes to council housing after 40 years of decline and demonisation, and follows a Norwich council estate being named as Best New Building of the Year earlier this autumn – the first social housing project to win the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize in the awards’ 23-year history. 

Further backing for council housing was clear when Scape recently surveyed local authority officers with management responsibility for housing in their council, and found that 100% would like to be able to fund and build more housing for social rent directly in their area.

Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive, said: “While overall affordable housing provision is up, looking closely at the numbers, there are significant differences in the tenure of housing being delivered. Today’s data reveals another disastrous drop in the provision of homes for social rent under the current government. Local authorities, who are responsible for meeting local housing needs, are under increasing pressure to deliver.

“Despite the majority of funding going to housing associations, they completed just 5,447 homes for social rent during the past year. But over a million families are registered on the waiting list for social housing. Although the housing association model has proven itself highly effective for the management of estates, social rented homes are not being delivered at the scale and pace the country needs.

“Delivering a step change in providing homes for our communities demands a radical solution, and I believe the answer lies in the past. Councils must be given more power to build social housing themselves, as they were in the 1970s, before housing associations became non-governmental delivery agents for the provision of social rented housing. In 1977, when councils were still responsible for new social housing 121,000 homes were built.

“The last general election saw concern over housing reach the highest level amongst voters since 1974, particularly among 18 to 34 year olds. This is a crisis that no politician should be allowed to ignore. Housing must be at the centre of the upcoming election and it’s vital that we see an ambitious renewal of council housebuilding at the heart of every party’s manifesto.”