A social housing buffer stock
A new housing report by Shelter has suggested that an additional 3 million new homes will be needed in order to deal with the housing crisis in the next two decades. It also places further emphasis on the government to expand its criteria on those eligible for social housing support. The report, commissioned after the Grenfell disaster, marks a cross-party approach to combating the housing crisis.
Shelter’s report is timely as the private rented sector (PRS) continues to deal with the increasing pressures of demand with no supply and few safeguards — something which the PRS was never designed to cope with in the first place.
The report also challenges the current consensus of the government, whom are only currently adding a measly 6,000 new homes for the public sector every year, which is far below the demand threshold. It’s also prompted the government to also rethink its housing strategy, which has long been considered a cost rather than as an investment in infrastructure.
The Shelter report, however, goes further in as much to reinstate the need for pressure to be taken off the PRS by encouraging the government to widen its criteria on those eligible, with 1.7 million homes being made for young people and 700,000 for older people struggling with affordability.
Investment in UK housing has been historically low, with the private sector now facing the brunt of demand (see figure 1) and landlords facing discrimination charges as the PRS continues to try and incorporate tenants on Universal Credit.
So will the provisioning of a social housing buffer stock solve all the issues? In part, but will not address the wider dynamics of the overall macroeconomic problems the UK is currently facing. According to a study by the London School of Economics, although commissioning of a large scale housing investment. mixing in private and the public sector, it will still not be enough on its own to alleviate much larger causes of inequality that has soared in the UK.
Much of this, as the paper cites, is centred around wider economic issues with wage stagnation and unsecured employment as austerity continues to be the mainstay of government policy. However, given the predicament the PRS finds itself in, this might be the first step to overcoming a long and persistent problem.