Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Lyons experts criticise homeownership focus

The government is too focused on homeownership and needs to do more to help those who cannot buy, a commission of experts has warned.

The Lyons Commission, originally formed by then Labour leader Ed Miliband in autumn 2013, has reconvened on a “wholly independent basis” to review the current government’s housing policy.

In a report published this morning via the National Housing Federation, the Lyons experts warned the government is “leading an orchestra made up only of the strings section” through its focus on homeownership.

It also urged the government to “clearly acknowledge” the role of housing associations and councils in boosting housing supply and called for closer working with the industry to develop Starter Homes.

The commission, chaired by Sir Michael Lyons, did praise the “priority the government has given to housing and its commitment to delivering a million homes over the course of the next parliament”.

However, Sir Michael said: “[The one million homes target] won’t be achieved by focusing solely on homes for sale. It’s like leading an orchestra made up only of the strings section.”

The report added that the rent cut, Right to Buy extension and reclassification of associations as public bodies by the Office for National Statistics have caused “concern and uncertainty” among social landlords.

It added: “Government needs to ensure the important contribution that both local authorities and housing associations can play alongside the private sector is reflected in their policies. As a country we have only ever managed to build the number of homes we now need when the public sector has funded a significant number of them.”

On Starter Homes, which are sold at 80% of market value, it warned the products could reduce the number of affordable homes for rent and called on the government to protect the 20% discount for longer than the current five years.

It also called for the government to take a “more ambitious approach” to direct commissioning, and use it to bring in a more diverse range of housebuilding partners. Currently direct commissioning is being piloted on five sites in the South East.

The full report is available here.

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