Government: No grant funding to buy unsold homes

The government has brushed aside several recommendations by MPs on how best to deliver affordable and social housing in the long-term.
The government has shrugged off calls to provide grant funding to help social landlords buy unsold homes. Credit: Pixabay.

The government has brushed aside several recommendations by MPs on how best to deliver affordable and social housing in the long-term, including the possibility of providing grant funding to help housing providers to buy unsold homes.

Responding to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s recent report on the long-term delivery of social housing, ministers have rejected MPs’ requests to link local incomes to a definition of affordable housing, or to embark on a large social housebuilding programme to help it hit its target of delivering 300,000 new homes a year.

The HCLG had asked the government to consider providing grant funding to help housing providers buy new or almost finished homes from developers that might go unsold in a recession, an approach used in the National Clearing House Scheme in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.

The government’s dismissal of new grant funding comes after the Affordable Housing Commission recently called for a £1.3 billion conversion fund to help social landlords buy private homes.

“The primary purpose of the Affordable Homes Programme is to generate new supply of affordable housing that would not otherwise be built. Acquisitions of existing homes using programme funding are therefore limited,” read the government’s response.

“To mitigate the disruption caused to home building the existing £9 billion Affordable Homes Programme has been extended by one year. This will save homes that would otherwise have been lost following site closures due to COVID-19.”

The government also confirmed that it will not take up the suggestion to set annual targets for new affordable and social homes, saying that local authorities should be able to identify the ‘size, type and tenure’ of housing needed in their own communities.

The HCLG Committee’s report found that only 6,827 new social homes were built in 2019, despite 90,000 new social homes being needed every year to meet the country’s housing needs.

While around 50% of homes in the government’s new £11.5 billion 2021-26 Affordable Homes Programme are expected to be for ‘affordable’ rent, so far no details have been given on how many social homes the programme will support.

“While we do not place a specific figure on the number of affordable houses which need to be built every year, we are committed not only to increasing the supply of new affordable homes, but ensuring that we build the right homes in the right places,” the government said.

Elsewhere in its response, the government also re-confirmed its commitment to introducing a package of reforms to improve protections for renters, including abolishing Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions.

The HCLG Committee’s report made a series of suggestions on the future of Right to Buy including allowing local authorities to receive 100% of Right to Buy receipts. The government said that it is now considering its response to a recent consultation on this topic.

Today the HCLG Committee has launched a new inquiry on the government’s proposed reforms to the planning system.

The inquiry will look at how well the proposed reforms would support the government’s housebuilding strategy while ensuring high quality construction. It will also examine how well the proposals protect existing buildings and areas, and allow for local engagement in the system.

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