The new restrictions that have been put in place in Greater Manchester in the last week have reminded us just how uncertain and unpredictable life has become since the start of the coronavirus pandemic early this year. We aren’t in full lockdown and businesses can and are continuing to operate within current safety guidelines, but the latest news signals very clearly that Greater Manchester’s and the country’s journey back to full economic strength and prosperity will take time.
There are very few sure things in life, but one of them is that construction, and more specifically building homes, is a tried and tested way to boost any economy. Building social homes is no different. According to National Housing Federation analysis, the country needs 90,000 new social homes a year, which would add £4.8bn to the national economy and support 86,000 jobs (1). There are also somewhere in the region of 100,000 households on housing waiting lists in Greater Manchester right now (2), which hints strongly towards a good proportion of those homes needing to be built in the metropolitan area.
If we want to steady the ship locally, regionally and nationally, it makes sense to me that the investment in social housing described by the #HomesAtTheHeart campaign could make a very significant contribution to any package of measures the Government puts in place at the forthcoming spending review.
More social homes would create jobs, directly and indirectly. They would help communities, and therefore local businesses, to thrive. And they would ensure that lower-paid essential workers, so many of whom are the backbone of the economy and the heroes of this crisis, live near to where they work. Crucially, social homes aren’t as exposed to the usual house market uncertainties, so while we would advocate for a mix of homes to be built, we see a clear and important role for social housing in the recovery from coronavirus.
A considerable number of businesses, especially those in the worst affected sectors, do not see a clear way out of this crisis, but decisive action from Government in areas that are tried and tested would help to lift the fog. So we will continue to support the #HomesAtTheHeart campaign because building social homes will help rebuild businesses, rebuild communities and rebuild lives after one of the most challenging times in our country’s history.
(1) NHF Supply Survey / Analysis carried out by CEBR for the NHF
(2) Shelter Housing Databank