Saturday, January 18, 2020

Welfare cuts exacerbating Britain’s housing crisis

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Political parties must focus on policies to build more homes, make housing more affordable and get to grips with rising homelessness, according to the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).

Ahead of the General Election on 8 June, the organisation is calling on all parties to commit to developing a long-term plan to solve the UK’s housing crisis.

It comes as a Public Accounts Committee report published today (Friday 28 April) warned that problems of homelessness and affordability are likely to persist for years unless more ambitious action is taken.

Chief executive Terrie Alafat CBE said: “Tackling our housing crisis has to be a top priority for all political parties. We need cross-party consensus to drive forward the measures that will make a difference.”

CIH said long-term plans should focus on:

• Building more homes – for example by removing the barriers to local authorities building homes
• Making homes more affordable – for example by directing more of the housing budget towards genuinely affordable homes to rent
• Reducing homelessness – for example by making sure councils have the resources they need to deliver the new Homelessness Reduction Act
• Making sure the welfare system is not obstructing moves to make housing more affordable – for example by exempting social and supported housing from the Local Housing Allowance

Terrie Alafat said: “We know we need to build around 250,000 homes a year in England alone to keep pace with our growing population, but we have failed to build anywhere near that number for decades. This is a long-term challenge that needs a long-term plan from whoever is in power come June 9.”

She added: “It’s not just about building more homes, it’s about building more affordable homes for people on lower incomes. 32,110 affordable homes were delivered in 2015/16 – that’s the lowest level since 1991/92 at a time when need is increasing.

“We need more homes across the spectrum – for home ownership, for private and social rent, and for shared ownership – but we believe more investment is urgently needed in genuinely affordable homes to rent.

“The next government needs to look at rebalancing the housing budget – affordable housing currently accounts for 16 per cent of direct total investment and we think this needs to increase.”

Terrie Alafat said the new Homelessness Reduction Act was a good first step towards tackling rising levels of homelessness, but added that legislation on its own would not be enough.

She said: “We know that homelessness is rising in all its forms for a range of reasons, partly because of the pressures on the housing market but also some of the welfare changes that have come into force over the past few years.

“History tells us that we can reduce or even eliminate homelessness but it does require a co-ordinated approach – that means government investment, funding for affordable housing and a concerted effort across the housing and homelessness sectors.”

CIH is also calling on the next government to review the welfare reforms that have been introduced since 2012 and measures due to be rolled out over the next few years.

Terrie Alafat said: “The cumulative impact of the various measures that have been brought in is causing real hardship for people across the UK.

Our research for example has shown that 116,000 families (and 300,000 children) will be affected by the reduced benefit cap which came into force in November, leaving them with a weekly shortfall of more than £100 in help with their housing costs in many areas.

“We are getting to the stage where even the most affordable housing is out of reach for people who need it if they need any kind of help with their housing costs. And it’s going to get worse from April 2019 when the Local Housing Allowance cap is extended to social housing.

“Whoever wins the election needs to take a step back and make sure that welfare policies are not obstructing housing policies designed to make sure people can access a decent home at a price they can afford.”

This is an official press release from the Chartered Institute of Housing. Headline chosen by Welfare Weekly.

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