‘We need to make sure that homes built are affordable’
We asked CIH members what they thought of the government’s plans for housing and welfare outlined in last month’s budget – here’s what they told us.
Before the Budget at the end of November much was made of it being ‘the housing budget’ – and housing did indeed play a starring role, with chancellor Philip Hammond setting a new target of 300,000 homes a year and announcing a range of measures including lifting Housing Revenue Account borrowing caps for councils in high-demand areas and scrapping stamp duty for first-time buyers on homes up to £300,000. But will the changes be enough to make a real impact, especially on the crucial issue of affordability? We asked our member opinion panel – a 580-strong group of CIH members who regularly take part in short surveys about the latest developments in housing and welfare.
It’s fair to say they were sceptical – just 7.5% of respondents agreed that government money is targeted at providing the right kinds of homes, while 81.7% disagreed. Just under a third said the measures would result in more affordable housing being built, but 58% said they wouldn’t. We also asked specifically about the move to lift local authority borrowing caps in areas of high demand from 2019-20 – 10.8% agreed it would be enough to increase the supply of truly affordable homes for rent, while 63.4% disagreed.
Just over a quarter of respondents agreed that the stamp duty cut would enable more people to afford to buy a home, while 53.3 per cent said it wouldn’t.
Measures aimed at tackling homelessness included setting up a new taskforce to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminate it totally by 2027, investing £28 million to set up Housing First pilots in Manchester, Liverpool and West Midlands, and providing £20 million to support people at risk of homelessness to secure tenancies in the private rented sector. Just 4.3% of respondents agreed that as a package, the measures will significantly cut the number of people experiencing homelessness, while 80.7% disagreed.
The changes to universal credit got a more favourable response. 79.4% agreed that removing the seven-day waiting period will help to alleviate some of the difficulties people have been experiencing, while 65.6% agreed that allowing people to apply for up to a month’s payment in advance within five days of applying for universal credit would help. The repayment period for advances is being extended from six to 12 months – 62.4% of respondents said it would help deal with some of the problems reported with the new system.
But, as we have argued, many respondents told us they don’t think the changes go far enough. Comments included;
“The amendments to universal credit are better than nothing but are minimal – much more needs to be done.”
“Some of the changes are welcome but, for example, the changes to universal credit don't go far enough to make a positive difference to large numbers of people.”
“Although the changes to universal credit are welcome they do not go far enough in alleviating the problems – further changes are urgently needed.”
Fundamentally, it looks like members agree with our chief executive Terrie Alafat, that the Budget was light on measures that could make a real difference to improving affordability. Some of the comments we received included:
“The Budget did not address the real issue – the lack of truly affordable housing and the failure of the benefit system to enable access to decent housing.”
“We need to make sure that homes built are affordable, we especially need social rented properties.”
“No mention of affordable or social homes for rent was a disappointment. The £1bn additional borrowing to local authorities is woefully low and fails to recognise the potential for local authorities to deliver significant numbers of new homes.”
“There is little additional money being made available for truly affordable housing.”
There is plenty of scope for the government to rebalance its investment in housing, without increasing overall spending – our analysis shows that 80 per cent of the housing budget up to 2020/21 is directed towards private housing, with just 20 per cent going to affordable housing. And as members of our opinion panel suggested, ministers could also do more to enable councils to play a much bigger role in new house building – for example allowing them to keep 100% of the money they get from right to buy sales and going further on removing borrowing caps. This is not just a numbers game; it’s about making sure that we build the right homes in the right places and that people can afford them.