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Covid-19 Will Increase the Need for More Social Housing – So What’s the Plan?

Across the UK, homeless charities and local authorities are braced for a crisis as government financial and housing lifelines introduced during the pandemic are withdrawn. The crisis will put even more pressure on social housing that is already in desperately short supply.

Eviction bans on private landlords cannot go on forever. More individuals and families are struggling in the face of reduced earnings and redundancy. And rough sleepers temporarily housed in hotels and student accommodation will have to find another place to shelter.

Despite a chronic and growing shortage, the UK completed just over 6500 homes for social rent last year. That level of output needs to be dramatically increased if we are to avoid a catastrophe. How will that be achieved?

In a recent report the Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Select Committee argued that 90,000 new social homes a year are needed in England. The committee called on ministers to deliver them with a £10bn increase to annual grant funding. In other words, we need to step up capacity by 83,000 more social homes than we are currently building.

The Housing System Can Be Fixed

The committee highlighted that the coronavirus pandemic “has exposed our broken housing system.” Families in overcrowded homes face “worse health outcomes” while private renters struggle to meet costs.

Funding and financial measures such as allowing local authorities to retain 100% of right-to-buy receipts are one part of the solution. The other issue is finding ways to dramatically increase the volume of high-quality, energy-efficient and sustainable social homes that are completed. This is something we know how to do. And it means adopting Modern Methods of Construction (MMC).

Construction has been targeted as a priority by the Government. This recognises the fact that it is an effective way to stimulate economic activity and create jobs. Prioritising social housing and greater use of MMC will deliver a substantial economic and social impact, as well as the 90,000 social homes we need each year.

Osborne has considerable expertise in the use of offsite and MMC technologies to deliver speed, quality and sustainability. These are exactly the qualities that an expanded social housing programme so urgently needs.

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