The COVID-19 pandemic will inevitably have a significant impact on the delivery of new homes across England. Whilst many construction sites across the country have now reopened, many remain closed or are operating at reduced capacity and this includes housing associations and councils.
Those that are open will likely suffer delays from a number of contributing factors including labour shortage, safety concerns, supply chain issues and prolonged uncertainty. There is no doubt that this could serve to dramatically impede the provision of an increased and improved housing supply, which is of such high priority in the UK.
Through sustained government intervention with both private enterprise and Registered Providers (RPs), overall housing supply has been on an upward trajectory over recent years. Housing investment from all sources has an important part to play in a shared local and central government ambition to stimulate economic growth. The COVID-19 response by key workers provides a powerful call to action to redouble efforts to scale-up supply of low-cost homes to rent and to buy, right across the country. Councils want to play their full part in ensuring a generational step-change in the supply of these homes, in order to meet the housing needs of people in different circumstances and at different stages of their lives. This report outlines a package of measures that will enable them to do exactly that.
Councils already play a vital role in housing supply as planning and housing authorities, as partners with house builders and registered providers, as direct builders, as providers of homes for the most vulnerable and as local place leaders. However, planning for the “new normal” provides a unique opportunity for the sector to release its potential to do much more.
It is therefore imperative as part of the response to the pandemic that Government considers what steps, measures and reforms would support councils to work towards delivering a new generation of 100,000 high quality social homes per year.
With previous research for the LGA and partners showing that investment in a new generation of social housing could return £320 billion to the nation over 50 years, the arguments for investment in social housing as an economic stimulus will grow stronger in a post COVID-19 world.
Every £1 invested in a new social home generates £2.84 in the wider economy.
Each new social home would generate a saving of £780 per year in Housing Benefit.
Every new social home would generate a fiscal surplus through rental income.
Increasing construction would not only help boost the economy very quickly, it would also provide much needed affordable homes for people across the country reeling from the economic impact of the pandemic.
Expansion of the development programmes of councils would:
offer a pathway out of expensive and insecure private renting, and on towards ownership
over time, reduce the cost to government of meeting the housing needs of low-income households through reductions in the housing benefit bill
make a major contribution to the Government’s ambition of 300,000 new homes a year, help address pressure on public services, notably health and social care, driven by poor housing conditions
support the re-purposing of town and city centres as well as enabling people to remain in rural areas in which they grew up
support the government’s ambition to provide 6,000 new supported homes for vulnerable rough sleepers taken off the streets during the pandemic
support a climate smart recovery.