Last year there was a paper from the Policy Exchange think tank about how the supply of social housing could be increased. The idea being that when high value social housing was vacated it was sold and the proceeds used for new building. The idea of retaining a council house worth a million pounds while also leaving people in hostels on the waiting list is quite wrong. (I went on Newsnight to support the Policy Exchange proposal.)
The Autumn Statement promises to give councils a nudge to do something about this.
The government will increase the funding available for new affordable homes, by increasing local authority Housing Revenue Account borrowing limits by £150 million in 2015-16 and £150 million in 2016-17, allocated on a competitive basis, and from the sale of vacant high-value social housing….The government will prioritise bids on the basis of their value for money, and would expect partnership working with Housing Associations or through Joint Ventures. The government also expects bids to contribute public sector land, and disposal of high-value vacant stock to drive competitive bids. To support this, the government will ensure all councils are transparent in the value and size of their housing assets.
There is also some encouragement for the right to buy and redevelopment of estates:
The government’s reforms to the Right to Buy scheme in 2012 have delivered a stepchange in sales, supporting new affordable housing through 1:1 replacement of additional homes sold and helping buyers onto the housing ladder. Sales more than doubled from 3,740 in 2011-12 to 8,400 in 2012-13.100 The government will further support Right to Buy by introducing Right to Buy Agents to help buyers complete their home purchase, and provide £100 million to establish a fund to increase Right to Buy sales, by improving applicants’ access to mortgage finance.
The government also wants to help improve the chances of those in social housing. Regeneration of housing estates can reinvigorate blighted neighbourhoods, turning them into vibrant communities, as well as boosting the supply of housing in those areas. The government will explore options for kick starting the regeneration of some of the worst housing estates through repayable loans. The government also wants hardworking households to have the greatest opportunities to benefit by moving to take up a job or live closer to their employment or training. Those in social housing have limited choices. The government will therefore consult on options for a right to move for local authority tenants who want to move home for reasons related to employment.
This is encouraging – although the estate redevelopments must restore streets with terraced housing not just replace old tower blocks with new tower blocks.
George Osborne’s Special Adviser is Neil O’Brien – who last year was the Director of Policy Exchange. Piccolo mondo!
Anyway welcome announcements.