The Future of Affordable Housing

30 Jan 19 | Stuart Mills

A lack of housing supply (amongst other factors) is identified in the report as a cause of significant affordability issues for households across the country. Leaving fewer people able to buy their own home. This in turn has placed additional strain on the private rented sector, particularly in the context of a sharp decline in the delivery of traditional ‘social housing’ and cuts to funding.

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Shelter’s Commission on the Future of Affordable Housing report (Building for our future, a vision for social housing) has brought social housing and the affordability agenda back into sharp focus.

A lack of housing supply (amongst other factors) is identified in the report as a cause of significant affordability issues for households across the country. Leaving fewer people able to buy their own home. This in turn has placed additional strain on the private rented sector, particularly in the context of a sharp decline in the delivery of traditional ‘social housing’ and cuts to funding.

Nationally the lower quartile house price to lower quartile income ratio has risen to 7.1 in recent years and is as high as 13.2 for London. This demonstrates the critical importance of increasing housing supply to improve affordability across the market. The Government’s target of 300,000 new homes per year acknowledges this. Yet there is still a long way to go to address decades of under-delivery and a lack of ambition in the planning system.

Affordable housing providers have a key role to play in this context, in delivering a greater number of high quality, fit-for-purpose and genuinely affordable new homes as part of a more diverse tenure mix including Build to Rent and intermediate products.

Ageing housing estates from the golden years of affordable housing development are increasingly being identified as key locations to renew and expand the existing stock, and to create new high quality, sustainable neighbourhoods. Such proposals are however not without controversy, and there is growing recognition that the residents who live on these estates have often been marginalised and excluded from the decision-making process.

The Mayor of London’s requirement that proposals for estate regeneration projects must be supported by existing residents in a ballot is one particular example of a measure to address this issue.  Ensuring that developments are undertaken with the consent of those most affected.

It will be interesting to observe the debate regarding London’s affordable housing strategy at the Examination in Public for the new London Plan next month, which seeks to further encourage resident inclusion. Some will see such provisions as yet another factor slowing down the delivery of new homes. Whilst others will consider this as a positive measure to require providers to work with existing residents. I suspect that those providers who can engage constructively with local communities will be best placed to succeed in this increasingly important sector.

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