Savills seminar shines spotlight on need for social housing

Regeneration, the green agenda, and retrofitting among other key topics discussed.

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Savills Annual Housing Seminar pitched social housing as crucial to the future landscape of the housing sector.

Speaking yesterday (25th) at the seminar in London, Lord Best captured general sentiment when he urged for a regrowth of the social housing sector.

He said: “The social sector needs to build itself up more dramatically.

“The private-rented sector has exceeded the capacity for what it can do…We have to see a regrowth of the social sector.”

Lord Best cited figures showing that social housing has declined by half over a 50-year period (currently 17% of housing supply), while there has been around a 100% increase in the growth of the private-rented sector (currently around 20% of housing supply).

He proposed a series of potential solutions, including:

  • Buying back some of the properties sold under Right To Buy
  • Bring back rent controls in the private-rented sector
  • Local-income-related rents that are affordable to the people for whom the properties are actually intended

Lord Best highlighted how the need for social housing has become greater due to the rise of the private-rented sector combined with demographic changes.

Former minister of state for housing and planning Nick Raynsford said the role of the private-rented sector “should not be confused to providing social housing”, but accepted the need for a full range of providers if the country is to build the houses it needs over the coming years.

Raynsford also outlined four key issues that he believes need to be overcome if the country is to meet its housing needs:

  • Expanding supply
  • Improving quality
  • Easing affordability
  • Ensuring sustainability

Fiona Fletcher-Smith, group director of development and sales at L&Q, said that while providing more social housing is vital, the human element cannot be ignored.

She said: “There are human beings involved in this whole process…We will not build new homes at the expense of the safety of existing residents,” highlighting how L&Q turned down 300 new homes in 2018 because they were “not good enough” in terms of quality.

Fletcher-Smith also urged the sector just to get on with building social housing and not to worry about who provides it.

“There’s a rather sterile debate at the moment about who builds council housing…that is a waste of time and energy…it doesn’t matter who builds them,” she said.

Other topics discussed at the conference included regeneration, retrofitting, the balance between investing in existing stock and building new stock, the challenge of conforming to the green agenda, and funding.

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