CIH responds to the Queen’s Speech

Responding to the Queen’s Speech Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) deputy chief executive. Gavin Smart said:

“Extending right to buy to housing associations is not going to tackle the housing crisis – in fact it could make things worse for people on lower incomes who are already struggling to access a decent home at a price they can afford. It would have a huge impact both on housing associations and on local authorities, as councils would have to sell off their most valuable homes to fund replacements.

“Our concern is that in practice it would result in the loss of vital social and affordable homes. The government says each home sold would be replaced on a one-for-one basis – but we know this is not happening under the current scheme. Our research has shown that most local authorities only expect to be able to replace half or fewer of the homes they sell under right to buy. And government figures show that between April 2012 and last September councils started or acquired 2,298 homes using right to buy receipts – just one for every 11 sold.

“The government says that replacements for both housing association and council homes sold under the extended scheme would be built in the same area, but this will be heavily dependent on land availability and will therefore be extremely challenging in some inner city and also rural areas.

“The best way of helping people on lower incomes into home ownership is by increasing the supply of affordable housing. CIH is ready to work with the government on the solutions that could make a real difference, for example investing in shared ownership and supporting local authorities on land and asset management to deliver more homes.”

Gavin also explained:

“The right to build, which will require local authorities to identify and release land with planning permission, is a sensible step which could increase the contribution that self-build makes to housing supply. It should also provide a boost for small to medium sized builders which historically have played a critical role in delivering new homes.”

However, he was concerned that:

“Freezing working age benefits for two years fails to reflect the reality of the housing crisis. We are not building enough homes, which means the cost of housing and therefore the housing benefit bill is going up.

“Millions of people have no choice but to rely on housing benefit to secure a roof over their head. That includes an increasing number of people in work – the number of people in work who still have to claim housing benefit has more than doubled from around 445,000 to just over a million in the last five years.

“Cutting housing benefit for under 21s fails to take into account the reality of many young people’s lives. It could have a serious impact on vulnerable young people who have left home, including those who have been rough sleeping and may be forced to return to it. It could also mean that young people would be unwilling to take risks such as moving for work because there would be no safety net for them.

“Our research on the impact of the benefit cap in Haringey showed that people affected by the cap face serious barriers to finding work, including a lack of job seeking skills and affordable childcare. So we think that lowering the benefit cap would be very dangerous unless ministers commit to increasing support for people looking to get back into work and funding for childcare for those people affected.

“Ultimately, if the government really wants to tackle the housing benefit bill, it needs to commit to building more genuinely affordable homes.”