How important is housing delivery for our next government?
The focus on other issues has sadly crowded out a much-needed debate about housing during this election campaign. The result is that the housing crisis has not featured as highly on the agenda as we would like, or as highly as this country needs.
As a regional group of housing associations we’re ready and waiting to deliver to our full capacity, and we look forward to working with the new government on Friday, whoever that is. We want to deliver the affordable housing the South West needs.
We launched our own manifesto at the same time as the three main parties. In our manifesto we set out the South West’s need to ramp up the supply of affordable homes across the region to 15,000 each year. We called for additional long-term investment in new social and affordable homes, urgent action to speed up the planning system, and the implementation of measures to prioritise the release of public land for affordable housing to help achieve this. We hope to see these issues at the top of any new government’s list of priorities.
How have the major parties responded to each of our ‘asks’ in their own manifestos?
Our view is that the only way housing associations can make long-term investment decisions, especially in uncertain economic conditions, is for government to commit to providing the necessary increase in social housing grant over the next ten years. We were therefore pleased to see commitments from all three parties along these lines. We welcome the Conservatives’ commitment to renew the Affordable Homes Programme, Labour’s commitment to national government funding for 1 million new homes by the end of the next Parliament with 150,000 council and social homes per year and the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to the building of at least 100,000 homes for social rent each year, with £130bn to fund this.
In all cases we would like to see proper recognition of the role and importance of housing associations in achieving these aims. Housing associations, together with local authorities, will be vital partners if these programmes are to be successfully delivered.
We also called for urgent action to speed up the planning system. This was only briefly mentioned by one of the three main parties, the Conservatives, whose manifesto pledged to make the planning system simpler for the public and for small builders. While we welcome this, we would like to see this expanded to encompass larger housebuilders such as housing associations. There also needs to be wider recognition of this as a key issue in tackling the housing crisis.
The last area where we want to see commitments from the major parties is in securing measures to prioritise the release of public land for affordable housing. Unfortunately none of the major parties has yet set out its thoughts on this critical issue. We will continue to push for this – and all our asks.
The members of Homes for the South West are long-term neighbourhood anchors and are committed to solving the regional housing crisis. Whatever happens this Friday, our members will stand together, firmly committed to working with the new government, local authorities and other partners to build the 15,000 affordable homes the region so badly needs.