Autumn Statement is a genuine and important start to tackling our housing crisis

The Chancellor has announced more funding and a commitment to real flexibility in what we build and offer. There are still challenges to tackle – but housing associations are ready to step up.

David Orr

By David Orr, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation

23 November 2016

We have a housing crisis. Today, the Chancellor has made a series of announcements that suggest we can now make real progress on building the homes we need to tackle that crisis.

For years we have argued that too few homes are being built. As I have said on a number of occasions in the last few months, the last year in which we delivered 250,000 new homes in a single year was 1977 - 39 years ago. And yet it is widely accepted that this is the number of new homes we have needed in each of these years. That failure to build has been a huge failure to invest in a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren. We have all been complicit. Too many of us have argued against new homes in the field across the road because it will spoil the view. Too many of us have put our personal interest in seeing the value of our homes rise above the needs of those who can't afford to buy or rent. Too often we have argued about tenure, or how we ration a scarce resource rather than thinking about the kind of society we want to build.

All of that is why we worked together to push housing up the political agenda with Homes for Britain and make the case for housing associations with Owning our Future. It's why we worked with a Government that wanted to extend the Right to Buy to housing associations, agreeing a voluntary deal rather than just having another fight. It's why housing associations have listened to those who have asked if they are using their resources and assets to best effect, to the point today where collectively we are building more homes for social rent without government investment than with. And it is why we have continued to say to the Government that the focus must be on new supply, new investment, new approaches to regeneration and renewal and a new commitment to delivering at a scale that will help us, finally, to tackle the housing crisis.

Housing associations have made a compelling offer to the Government and to the nation. Our offer is to provide homes for everyone: the poorest and most vulnerable, the 'just about managing', the people on middle incomes priced out by out of control housing costs and others who just need a high quality home to buy or rent at market prices. We have said in our Ambition to Deliver that some of these homes will be for sale, some for rent, some for equity sharing or renting before buying. Some of them will be subsidised and available at much less than market price. And we have said that we will continue to make an offer to those who need support to live fulfilling and independent lives in the community.

We have said that we will stretch our resources as far as we can to deliver all this so that the nation gets from where we are now to the 250,000 new homes a year we need. And we have said that we have the capacity to do much more if the Government does two key things - increase public investment in delivering new homes and give us much more flexibility to provide the tenure mix we need in the places where we work.

Today the Chancellor has agreed with us. There is more money and a commitment to real flexibility in what we build and what we offer. Housing associations are, and indeed must be, ready to step up and deliver.

This is nowhere near the end. There is still much to do and challenges to tackle. The announcement on Monday that the Local Housing Allowance cap will apply to new and existing tenants on Universal Credit is concerning, for example, especially for under 35s on the Shared Accommodation Rate. But, after 39 years of failing to build the homes we need, it feels at last like the Government has made a genuine and important start to tackling our housing crisis.

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