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Let's make housing a priority and create a brighter future for all

Ian Mcdermott 9

Peabody is ready to work with the next government to ensure more homes are built to address the housing crises facing the country, writes our Chief Executive, Ian McDermott. 

Published: 01/07/2024

We’re now just days away from the general election. A new government brings the promise of a new start, of fresh perspectives and opportunities to address longstanding issues. Regardless of which party takes the helm, it’s crucial that housing is a top priority. We alongside our peers are ready to work with the next government, whatever its makeup, to ensure more homes are built to help address the acute housing crises facing the country. 

The numbers are alarming and unacceptable in modern Britain: one in 50 Londoners and a child in every classroom are homeless, living in temporary accommodation. These figures are a stark reminder of the growing emergency that needs immediate and sustained action. The new government has the chance to take a fresh look at how we can collectively tackle homelessness which will in turn tackle its related issues. Building safe, secure social housing can and would alleviate poverty, reduce pressure on the NHS, and stimulate economic growth by boosting supply chains and creating jobs. It would also save the taxpayer money. 

Over £30 billion of public money is spent annually on housing, mostly directed towards housing benefits and personal subsidies that increase demand without addressing supply. This funding could be more effectively used for vital infrastructure and the construction of new homes. Rebalancing spending from demand-side subsidies to public capital investment in building is essential to resolving the housing crisis. Though a significant shift, it can be done and it is necessary. 

In England, there are now 1.4m fewer households in social housing than there were in 1980. There is a net loss of social rented homes every year even if you just count homes sold under the right to buy.    

Research from Shelter and the National Housing Federation shows that building 90,000 social rented homes would inject £51.2 billion into the economy, with £32.6 billion generated within a year, with the creation of approximately 140,000 jobs. This initiative would break even within three years, ultimately yielding a £12 billion profit for taxpayers over the next three decades. 

We already work with private developers, investors, government departments, and councils, but we can unlock more social housing, provided we can make a compelling case for public investment and demonstrate the long-term benefits. 

We echo the National Housing Federation’s call for a comprehensive #PlanForHousing to tackle the housing emergency, which is both a housing and social crisis. A long-term, politically-backed plan is needed to address this issue effectively. 

We know there’s no magic money tree but think cash already being spent can be better funneled elsewhere. There are also other things the government can do to help us provide more homes that wouldn’t cost them. We need certainty around future rental income, which would stabilise our ability to attract investment. Ministers need to work with us to repair the housing sector’s reputation to attract investment and partnerships. It could eliminate VAT on housing associations to free up significant funds for development and investment and offer more flexibility in the use of grant funding, particularly within the Affordable Homes Programme. 

We recognise the funding constraints faced by the future government, but increased public investment in social housing is crucial. This investment will not only address the housing crisis but also unlock private capital and drive sustainable, inclusive growth and prosperity in partnership with housing associations and other stakeholders. It is imperative that the next government prioritises housing.  

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