Despite the promise of funding for social housing, the government has yet to actually provide it. Although there have been repeated assurances that the UK’s housing shortage will be tackled, there has been little action. As a result, UK councils have been left feeling frustrated.
At the Conservative party conference in October 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May gave assurances that the state would “get back into business” of building social housing. As a result, it was announced that there would be a £2 billion fund to build of a new generation of council homes. This new incentive gave hope to local authorities as it was the first time that the government had specifically committed to tackling social housing since 2010.
However, councils are still unable to apply for the funding, despite reassurances from the prime minister. This has resulted in local constituents expressing feelings of concern and frustration.
Elected Labour Mayor of Salford Paul Dennet, has outlined that the guidelines for the allocation of grants to build homes for social rent have not been published. Housing in Salford has become increasingly unaffordable, rising by 15% in 2017 with housing income struggling with just a 1% increase in the same year.
Rent rates for council housing are at least 30% below the market average, and there are 1.2 million families in England are on waiting lists. Despite the high demand for social housing, only 5,380 homes were built for social rent in 2016 – 2017. Councils want to face the housing crisis by building homes themselves. They believe that the investment would be highly beneficial and pay for itself over time through rental income and increased property value.
Even so, the government currently prevents councils from using the profits of social housing sales to build replacement homes. Furthermore, councils are restricted from borrowing to build homes themselves despite some having reserves for building programmes.
Although the government may have positive ideas for change, action needs to be taken so that council houses can be built. Restrictions should be relaxed so that local councils can use the money allocated to build homes that are so desperately needed.