LGA calls for 100,000 social rent council homes a year

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Labour Campaign for Council Housing media release

A report, Building Post-Pandemic Prosperity, The economic and fiscal case for constructing 100,000 council homes a year, commissioned by the Local Government Association, Association of Retained Council Housing, and National Federation of ALMOs, warns that rough sleeping, homelessness and sofa surfing is only likely to increase in the coming months. It estimates that spiralling council housing waiting lists could be set to nearly double to 2 million households next year as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19 with a large-scale social house-building programme by councils offering a cheaper, safe and high-quality accommodation for struggling families priced out of the private housing market.

It proposes a “post-pandemic building boom of 100,000 new social homes for rent each year.”

Cllr David Renard, LGA housing spokesperson, said:

“With the number of people on council housing waiting lists set to double, it is absolutely vital that we build more housing for social rent. Building 100,000 social homes for rent a year would bring significant social and economic benefits, from tackling our housing crisis and reducing rising levels of homelessness to wiping millions off welfare bills and improving people’s health and wellbeing while alleviating the pressure on health and social care. We are urging government in the Spending Review to give councils the powers to get building at scale again and deliver a housing programme that can play a central role in the national recovery from coronavirus.”

Covid amplifies the need and demand for homes by families unable reasonably to afford market rents or to buy. As covid-related income support schemes wind down, unemployment rises, and the government ban on evictions is lifted, more families will be foreced to find cheaper accommodation.

Martin Wicks, Secretary of the Labour Campaign for Council Housing said:

“The call for the building of 100,000 social rent council homes a year is very welcome. There is no question that the pandemic is exacerbating the housing crisis. Councils are not well placed to deal with a big increase in homelessness likely to follow the ending of the evictions moratorium, since they only receive a fixed sum for temporary accomodation. Under the previous system they received the cost of rent for each homeless household placed in temporary accomodation.

The Joseph Rowntree foundation has estimated that around 700,000 private tenants are in arrears with up to 350,000 facing the threat of eviction.

Kick-starting a large scale council house building programme is therefore more urgent than ever. But it requires central government grant at least on the scale of £10 billion a year which Labour committed to in its manifesto.

The question is can pressure be brought to bear on the government to move on this? Whilst the LGA report is very welcome experience teaches us that private lobbying of the government will not move them. The LGA really needs to campaign around the demand. For instance all councils should move resolutions supporting the call for 100,000 council homes a year, and for the government to provide at least £10 billion grant a year to help build them. Likewise pressure should be brought to bear on MPs.

The Labour Party and trades unions have a particular responsibility. Our campaign has called on Labour to demand of the government the commitments it made in its manifesto:

  • £10 billion a year to fund
  • £100,000 council homes a year, and
  • ending right to buy, which is losing us desperately needed stock.

Labour should pick up on this report and mobilise its councils and local organisations to demand that the funding is brought forward to address the acute housing need and the shortage of council homes.”

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