‘Ultimately, you can’t build subsidised housing without some form of subsidy.’
There can be few sector events at which a housing boss doesn’t echo this sentiment. For many, the importance of grant subsidy to build affordable homes is a ‘no-brainer’ - the merits being so blindingly obvious that it seems inconceivable that the government would not consider it a spending priority.
Yet the message has not yet registered with chancellor George Osborne and his peers in government. At the last comprehensive spending review in October 2010, grant funding for affordable house building was cut harder than any other capital budget across government - it was slashed by 63 per cent in real terms to £4.5 billion.
In doing so, Mr Osborne ceased funding social housing, and instead created a new tenure, ‘affordable rent’, which allowed landlords to charge rents of up to 80 per cent of the market rate using just £1.8 billion of grant to deliver around 80,000 homes.
Many landlords have stretched their balance sheets to build affordable rent homes and won’t be able to continue developing without more subsidy funding. As Mr Osborne prepares to unleash a further £11.5 billion of cuts in the spending review on 26 June, developing landlords are wondering what, if any, grant funding will be made available in 2015/16.
With under a month to go until the spending review, Inside Housing is taking action to sell the overwhelming benefits of providing grant funding to Mr Osborne. Today we launch a new campaign, Grant Britain Homes, which calls on the government to provide another round of grant funding in the spending review so that social landlords can viably continue to build affordable housing at sub-market rents.
Our offer to ministers is simple: provide certainty for landlords through a viable four-year grant programme, and in return, social landlords will build tens of thousands of homes that will help cut the housing benefit bill, create jobs and create stronger communities.
The campaign aims to galvanise the housing and construction sector into a single, united voice that can persuade the government that investing in affordable housing is the best-value means of achieving an urgently needed boost to the flagging economy.
We will do this by using the next month to showcase all that is made possible by grant funding, be it fantastic schemes alleviating acute housing need, support for skilled, sustainable jobs or simply homes being built which otherwise would not.
Grant Britain Homes has already won the support of some of the biggest landlords and membership organisations in housing across Britain (see quotes). But the more voices that join our call, the more likely the government is to listen. We ask that you sign our online petition, send us examples of what you have been able to achieve as a result of grant funding and tweet the campaign to your local MP (#granthomes). We will present the petition and your responses to ministers ahead of June’s spending review. Join us in calling on the government to Grant Britain Homes.
Email your examples of what you have been able to achieve with grant funding to email@example.com
Campaign objectives: Grant Britain Homes
Inside Housing’s Grant Britain Homes campaign calls for:
- a commitment from UK government to provide grant funding to subsidise the development of sub-market rented homes;
- in England, to make this commitment long-term - at least four years - to allow housing providers to make their plans for building more homes with the certainty of support;
- in return, social landlords will commit to helping reduce the housing benefit bill by delivering more homes at sub-market rents and helping boost employment in their communities.
Sign the Grant Britain Homes petition at www.insidehousing.co.uk/granthomes
“Our recent research with Sheffield Hallam University demonstrated that affordable housing provision and management delivered an output of £10.3 billion in the north of England which equated to £4.6 billion gross value added. The provision of government grant for affordable housing is a key cog in this delivery process.”
Charlotte Harrison, executive director, Northern Housing Consortium
“Over reliance on debt to fund new homes threatens the exhaustion of housing association financial capacity and a slowing down of construction at a time when we know every £1 spent on new affordable homes adds a further £1.41 of added value elsewhere in the economy. Continued grant funding is good news financially, and economically.”
Jonathan Higgs,chief executive,Raven Housing Trust, and steering group member, Placeshapers
“The affordable housing sector has a proven track record of delivery - something the government should be taking advantage of to help tackle the immediate shortage of homes and give a much-needed boost to our fragile economy.”
Grainia Long, chief executive, Chartered Institute of Housing
“Grant is an investment for the future - not a subsidy - and a better use of public money than housing benefit. In the current four-year spending period £95 billion will be spent on housing benefit. In contrast, just £4.5 billion is being invested in affordable homes. The government must correct this false economy as a matter of urgency.”
Stephen Howlett, chief executive, Peabody
“In these challenging economic times there is now a compelling need to support the housing and construction sector in delivering more affordable housing and giving hope to hard-pressed, low-income families across the country.”
Ian Munro, chair, the Airport Group, and chief executive, New Charter Housing Trust
“A long-term plan to build more affordable housing is crucial to the economic health of the country. The government must commit to an investment programme beyond 2015/16. Without this, housing associations can’t build the homes this country desperately needs.”
Gill Payne, director, National Housing Federation
“This campaign will be warmly welcomed in Scotland. Housing policy is, of course, devolved but the level of housing investment south of the border has a direct impact on how much is spent on housing here.”
Alan Ferguson, director, Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland
“With a meaningful amount of capital subsidy we can build much-needed homes, create jobs, stimulate the economy and save housing benefit. This is an irresistible win, win, win, win.”
Rod Cahill, chief executive, Catalyst Housing
“The G15 is clear that the best value option for the taxpayer, for tenants and for housing associations is a return to higher capital grant with lower social rents. This will get more homes built and minimise the impact on the benefit bill.”
Keith Exford, chair, G15, and group chief executive, Affinity Sutton
“L&Q’s financial modelling work with Pricewaterhouse Coopers shows that higher capital grant combined with lower affordable rents is better for the tenant, better for the provider and better for the public purse.”
David Montague, chief executive, London & Quadrant
“Our i2i project has shown that capital investment in housing has resulted in benefits such as providing more business opportunities for SMEs, targeted recruitment and training, and supporting social enterprises.”
Julie Nicholas, policy and public affairs manager, Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru
“The g320 supports Inside Housing’s Grant Britain Homes campaign because: the development of new homes in London, often, is only possible at sub-market rents, with a capital subsidy; new homes are second only to transport infrastructure projects in the amount they generate in the wider economy; with a modest capital injection housing associations’ financial strength will continue to deliver new homes, but will dwindle without it.”
Mike Wilkins, treasurer, g320, and chief executive, Ducane Housing Association