Shelter boss fears First Homes could see social housing ‘extinct’

Polly Neate slams the scheme as little more than a re-vamp of Starter Homes.

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Shelter chief executive Polly Neate fears First Homes could make social housing “extinct”, saying it is little more than a revamp of the failed Starter Homes scheme.

Writing for The Guardian, Neate said First Homes offers nothing for those at the sharp end of a housing crisis that’s now a national emergency.

She said: “At a time when we desperately need properly affordable housing, policymakers are looking to give a lucky few a 30% discount on what are still going to be incredibly expensive homes.

“And let’s be clear about who the lucky few are. It is not those facing a monthly struggle to afford their rent.

“Our analysis shows that in 96% of the country someone on an average salary could not afford to buy one of these new-build homes, even with 30% lopped off the market price, and certainly not the key workers that the government talks about, unless they are at manager level.

“Let’s not forget, nearly two-thirds of private renters have no savings whatsoever – there’s no way they can afford a deposit,” she said.

The government is not proposing to introduce First Homes as an additional form of housing supply but instead plans to use Section 106.

As such, Shelter sees First Homes being delivered on new developments instead of shared ownership or social housing.

“Currently, this system delivers almost 60% of the precious few social homes that actually get built,” said Neate.

“A paltry 6,000 social homes were delivered last year. Social homes are already critically endangered – First Homes could make them extinct.

“Overall, when you factor in Right To Buy sales, demolitions, and conversations, there was a net loss of 17,000 social homes last year.

“It’s difficult to overstate how far this is the opposite of ‘levelling up’. Social homes for desperate families will be scrapped to help a fortunate few on to the housing ladder.

“Social housing and homes for first-time buyers don’t have to be either/or – this trade-off is wholly of the government’s making,” she said.

Shelter wants government to use its majority as an opportunity to set out an “historic renewal” of social housing.

“The priority [is] certainly not a a revamp of David Cameron’s failed Starter Homes initiative.

“First Homes is a comfort blanket only, providing nothing for the people at the sharp end of the national emergency that our housing crisis has become,” said Neate.

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