Affordable Housing Commission gets a taste for ‘radical solutions’

First call for evidence from new, independent body as focus groups identify an appetite for change.

For Sale and To Rent Signs estate agent boards

With focus group findings showing an “appetite” for radical solutions, the all-new independent Affordable Housing Commission (AHC) is ready to get stuck in.

And this week, the table invites have gone out with a menu in mind.

AHC needs evidence of what the sector wants to see it get stuck into – with the prospect of “major policy proposals” as a taster.

This call is a response to findings from the focus groups AHC hosted in Birmingham in December, which revealed:

  • First-time buyers and struggling renters think that the private rental sector is ‘broken’ and in need of radical change
  • Many of those privately renting report they are currently paying 40% – 45% of their household income on rent
  • Saving for a deposit is a major barrier and saving for a deposit for up to five years will mean a level of sacrifice that is unsustainable

AHC chair Lord Best said: “We are all acutely aware of the problems caused by the shortages and cost of housing and are keen to hear a range of views on how these problems can be ended.

“Although mindful of the practicalities and politics, we are hoping to bring together a small number of major policy initiatives which could make a dramatic difference – we would greatly welcome help in focusing our attention on the issues that matter most.”

The AHC aims to achieve policy changes that will make a lasting difference to the current housing crisis, and the call for evidence invites organisations and individuals to share views and suggestions on how problems of housing shortage and affordability can be ended.

Backed by the Nationwide Foundation and organised by the Smith Institute, the AHC was launched last year and is made up of 15 leading players from across the housing sector.

The commission will examine the causes and effects of the affordability crisis and propose workable solutions. It has identified four key groups for whom the affordability of their accommodation is causing serious difficulty, and for whom the AHC’s call for evidence would like to address:

  • Struggling renters: these are required to spend more than a third of their income on rented accommodation; they are often in the private rented sector (PRS), although the problem is also evident in in the social housing sector
  • Frustrated homeowners: those unable to buy a property without spending over a third on housing costs; many, who are struggling to save and without significant parental support, are destined to remain in the PRS
  • Those reliant on state support: households that rely on Housing Benefit/the housing component within Universal Credit, but current arrangements provide inadequate support, taking many below the poverty line
  • Those who face affordability issues in older age: whose incomes drop suddenly in retirement but whose rents remain the same (something which could become a bigger issue for generation rent in the future), and also older owners in unsatisfactory homes who cannot afford to upgrade their property or acquire somewhere suitable

Over its lifetime, AHC will be undertaking research and financial modelling, conducting polling and focus groups and publishing discussion documents.

Alongside its research activities, the Commission will be engaging key stakeholders and hosting events across the country.

A final report on findings and recommendations will be published in early 2020.

The Commission is comprised of: Lord Best (Chair), Sinéad Butters MBE, Aspire Housing; Ian Fletcher, British Property Federation; Professor Kenneth Gibb, University of Glasgow; Lindsay Judge, Resolution Foundation; Geeta Nanda, Metropolitan Thames Valley; Martin Newman, Giroscope; Jenny Osbourne, Tpas; John Slaughter, Home Builders Federation; Dan Wilson Craw, Generation Rent; Robert Grundy, Savills; Claire Ainsley, Joseph Rowntree Foundation; Kate Henderson, National Federation of Housing; Jo Negrini, London Borough of Croydon; and Gavin Smart, Chartered Institute of Housing. 

The deadline for submission and comments is 4th April 2019 and submissions should indicate if views are not to be cited or quoted.