Wednesday, 01 October 2014

Inquiry calls for quantitative easing to fund homes

A cross party inquiry led by a Labour peer is today calling for £5 billion of quantitative easing cash to be used to build homes across England, and for a £3 billion increase in funding for social housing.

Other ‘emergency measures’ demanded in the Housing Voice report include making the housing minister a cabinet position, and deferring the merging of housing benefit payments into universal credit.

In the medium and longer term the group wants to see the affordable housing budget raised to £4.75 billion a year, and for a national commission on affordable housing to be set up to report before the 2015 general election.

In total the group makes 21 recommendations designed to ensure 250,000 homes are built every year for the next two decades, with a ‘significant proportion’ being affordable.

Housing Voice is an alliance of campaigning organisations, including Citizens Advice, Child Poverty Action Group, the National Housing Federation, and the Trades Union Congress. Its year-long inquiry, which has resulted in the To have or have not report? published today, was led by Lord Whitty and panel members included MPs from all three main parties.

As part of the inquiry the group held four regional meetings, received 60 written submissions, and conducted a public survey of 3,000 people.

Lord Whitty said: ‘The evidence we have received demonstrates that the housing market throughout England is breaking down. There is serious dysfunction in all regions and all parts of the housing market.

‘This reflects the failure of successive governments to deliver sufficient new housing - housing starts remain at their lowest peacetime level. Building more homes requires substantial new resources in both the public and the private sectors.

‘There is clearly a case for urgent, concerted and cross party action at local and national level. We need a strategic– not piecemeal - approach and one which has wide public support and can therefore be sustained.’

Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey said: This important report is right to highlight the sense of urgency needed to tackle the biggest housing crisis in a generation, not least the severe shortage of affordable homes.

‘Labour is [determined] to put housing centre stage of our economic recovery plan because we understand just how important investment in house building is both to meet growing need and as a means of economic recovery.’

Emergency measures: What Housing Voice wants to see now

  • Homes and Communities Agency budget increased by £0.5 billion this year, £1 billion next year, and £1.5 billion in 2014/15, with the extra resources targeted at building homes for social rent
  • £5 billion of the £50 billion of quantitative easing announced in July to be used for low-interest housing bonds, or similar measures
  • Release of public land for housing to be accelerated
  • Encourage councils to introduce accreditation for private rented sector landlords
  • Make the housing minister a cabinet role
  • Defer the incorporation of housing benefit into universal credit
  • Do more to encourage pension funds to invest in private and social housing.

Read Lord Whitty’s comment explaining why the time has come for radical action on housing

Readers' comments (11)

  • Chris

    Ideas to fund house building and for those homes to be within the affordability of the people earning average wages - seems sensible. If only Lord Whitty could find some political party to support such a notion, and even develop a policy for it.

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  • Jon

    Why do Labour even bother!?

    whether its a good plan or not, the Coalition have already said they want to reduce Social Housing grant for the long term. So what is the POINT in making 21 recommendations that are completely against what the Coalition is trying to do, its is at BEST going to be used to support a wonky table leg.

    If they want to influence, they must work with the government - they can do whatever they like if they ever get back in, but paying MP's and think tanks to come up with completely pointless drivvle is not helping anyone and is certainly not helping to build new homes.

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  • Lord Whitty's comments are not revolutionary. Indeed, Harold MacMillan may, if still alive have recogised them, especially the 250,000 homes a year target. However, MacMillan was working at a time when all political parties, to a lesser or greater degree, felt a need to advance the cause of society and improve life for the majority. That is no longer the case. The consensus that the role of governmentis to make life better for as many people as posisble has been finally borken by Cameron et al.

    This is a government that cannot be 'worked with'. It is basing policy on a toxic mix of prejudice and regressive social views and not on evidence or with a view to advancing the well being of the majority.

    Policy ois to re-create the fuedal capitalism that prevailed before the Great War, in which those born to rule ruled, those born to serve served. The twain should only ever meet in a landlord/tenant, lord/servant, officer/enliosted man relationship. All knew their place and accepted it. Those who fell by the way side did so because of their own inadequacies and deserved their place in the gutter or the ditch.

    Insecure tenancies? Zero hours contracts? Health care being withdrawn from those who can't pay? Schools run by the 'worthy and good'? Soliders replaced by volunteers? Racist and sexist undertones to the Prime Minister's commentary on life? The evidence is all around us.

    The question is - what are we going to do about it?

    (The CiH of course is right behind the Coalition - has any organisation ever been less presentative of its members?)

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  • Melvin Bone

    Do Labour have a Housing Policy now?

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  • Joe Halewood

    Melvin - No is the simple answer.

    Interesting though that Dromey has today come out and tweeted that UCATT are right to oppose RTB. The shadow housing minister appears to have forgotten his boss EdM praised RTB at the last Labour conference!!

    Does this show: -
    (a) Dromey didnt know that? or
    (b) EdM doesnt give a stuff what Dromey says as he cant be on or off message as there is no policy to 'message?' or
    (c) Dromey is probably the worst shadow housing minister in living history?

    Personally I would go for (d) all of the above!

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  • RTB is as silly now as 30 years ago.

    Build more houses, tell tenants if you want to buy a portion they can anytime.

    Why give away scarce national assets ??

    Shared ownership is the way forward.

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  • Interesting perspectives as to the political dimension of housing campaigning and policy development outside government: whether. and/or to what extent, to oppose; to challenge, to offer feasible or maximalist alternatives; to co-operate and colloborate; to offer blue sky solutions.

    In this case this Grouping appears to be aligned closer to Labour than the Coalition (recognising the charitable status and independence of some of the members), and no doubt its report will serve as a contribution to the Labour Party housing policy review.

    Having said that, the majority of the bullet point proposals are highly relevant to current government policy development, and could have come from the Policy Exchange or a Conservative aligned think tank.

    Certainly housing policy development needs to be much more strategic, cross-cutting and radical to work even on the Coalition's own terms, as well as to be sustainable across electoral and economic cycles. Given that the political landscape is marked more by the contours of coalition than generational paradigm change on the Thatcher-monetarist model, best way forward surely is to contribute, mould, guide and progress an overlapping technical and political consensus that is amenable to, and consistent with.: the sustainable expansion of affordable housing embedded within reformed public and private sector business and provision models; blurred tenure divisions linked to the expansion of equity shares and a PRS providing greater security; greater diversity in the local authority and RP offer; and the effective integration of housing costs within the income maintenance system, in a way making work pay, in combination also, of course, with a step change in growth and employment.

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  • Is Jon Grant Shapps?

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  • I wish Dromey would cut out the party politics. Labour this , Labour that.

    A bit of humility would help-his Party's record 1997-2012 was pathetic.

    PS. to Don Smith.

    Shared ownership is not the way forward and never will be. Try re-selling them, countrywide. Right-to-buys are not silly. Terminally declined ecouncil estates would have been the end-result taking into account the lamentable standard of repair offered to council tenants by local authorities in the 1980's.

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  • First comment should have read 1997-2010, though Labour's credibilty in Oppostion since 2010 is equally poor.

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