Lords get ‘read between the lines’ answer on future for social housing

Peers hear of a need to balance additional Autumn budget funding between affordable homes and social housing.

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The House of Lords has received a ‘read between the lines’ answer on the future for social housing as seemingly outlined in the Autumn budget.

Lord Bourne, parliamentary under secretary of state, DCLG, urged peers to accept the £2bn additional funding for social rent as genuine.

He then said: “Although there is great pressure on social housing in areas of high affordability, we are able to build more affordable houses with a certain amount of money than social houses—so it is a question of getting the balance right.”

That, said Lord Bourne, was why government is focusing the measure on areas of high affordability rather than applying it across the country as a whole.

In the house, Baroness Grender questioned whether the government could be believed having promised an increase in social housing in both the 2015 and the 2016 Budgets, but built less social housing last year than at any time since the Second World War.

“Indeed, it has fallen by 50% in the last three years – why on earth should we believe them this time and this year, when every social home not built last year means another family homeless this Christmas,” she said,

Her alternative, put to the house, was a lifting of the cap on councils to let them build homes.

Lord Bourne said the government’s priorities were to boost housing supply and build more affordable homes, supporting the different needs of a wide range of people.

The recently announced £2bn of additional funding for social rent in the flexible affordable homes programme increased the budget to over £9bn with a £1bn lift to the housing revenue account borrowing cap in areas of high-affordability pressure.

This, said Lord Bourne, allowed providers to have the “flexibility and agility” to respond to local needs and markets, building the right homes in the right places – with the precise number of homes and tenure types depending on the bids received.

Urging Peers to accept the offer as genuine, Lord Bourne said that in the New Year government will announce proposals for how the sum will be spent, and what measure of it will be on social housing.

“Although there is great pressure on social housing in areas of high affordability, we are able to build more affordable houses with a certain amount of money than social houses—so it is a question of getting the balance right.

“That is why we are focusing this measure on areas of high affordability rather than applying it across the country,” he said.

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