Social housing: time for change – and for long-term investment

Published on Housing, Wealth and Debt

Guest post from Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation

This week the Resolution Foundation is throwing a welcome spotlight on the future of housing for social rent, and I’m really pleased to be a part of this important conversation about how the nation provides affordable housing for people who need it most.

This conversation couldn’t come at a better time, because I believe we are on the cusp of real change. Change the Government can drive if it seizes the moment in this year’s spending review to transform the country’s housing crisis.

It’s now widely accepted that England is in desperate need of more homes. We are short of four million homes, and to meet the nation’s housing needs we must build 340,000 new homes every year for the next ten years – including 90,000 homes a year for social rent.

Housing associations are already playing their part in this. Our latest supply statistics show that they are building more new homes, including more for social rent, and there have been some really welcome announcements of new funding for social housing that will help them do more.

But to achieve the step change in house building this country needs – particularly the kind of truly affordable homes that will make a difference to those pushed into poverty by housing costs – we need more. Better access to affordable land is a key piece of the puzzle. The other is funding, as the Resolution Foundation has highlighted. In the run-up to the spending review this year, we’ll be arguing for the transformational investment in social housing we need to really and truly end the housing affordability crisis.

The housing crisis isn’t just about affordability, though. It’s also about quality, community and equality. We should be confident that every home, for every resident, is of the highest possible quality – enough space for children to play and learn, and homes that are safe and warm. We should be investing in communities in parts of the country that missed out on prosperity, in people who have been let down by local job markets and economies. And we should be making sure everyone has the support they need to thrive.

All this is as central to the housing association mission as building desperately-needed new homes. We will continue to build and invest in not just affordable homes but good, safe, sustainable homes. We have a proud history of investing in communities, offering employment, skills and training services to their tenants and to others, with some, such as Aspire, dedicating a whole arm of its business to providing specialist training and support.

On top of this, our members provide services for people who have support needs, such as people with mental health problems, homeless people, or people who have experienced domestic abuse. These vital services offer people the chance of a job, a home, stability and hope for the future.

So the Federation will be calling for action on these issues too in the spending review. We’re calling for a review of these essential support services, to make sure they can continue, and we’ll be pushing for a welfare system that functions properly for both tenants and landlords. And we believe the Government should commit to invest properly in regeneration for great places whose people are being let down by the country’s economy.

When I think about the future of social housing, and the future of our communities, I think we’re ready to bring about change. Housing associations are working for this change, building the homes England needs and supporting the communities they serve. Now we need the long-term, strategic investment to make it happen.

This guest post is part of a Resolution Foundation week focused on the future of social housing. Watch a video of our panel event with Kate Henderson here, and read further Resolution Foundation analysis on the subject from Lindsay Judge, Stephen Clarke and Torsten Bell.