Housing leaders are calling on the government to set up a £1.3bn ‘national housing conversion fund’ to enable social landlords to buy up private housing. A report released today by the Affordable Housing Commission said that such a fund could deliver 42,500 new affordable homes and 9,300 new jobs.
Advantage has previously written about the construction industry’s response to Boris Johnson’s plans to “build, build, build”, with many hoping that the government’s promised infrastructure revolution will involve a serious financial investment in housebuilding to support both the construction sector and those struggling to get onto the housing ladder during the coronavirus pandemic.
Improving housing conditions & levelling up
As reported by Inside Housing, the commission argued that a ‘national housing conversion fund’ could mitigate a potential downturn in the housing market and would be a cost-effective way to help tenants and increase the provision of social housing.
Similar schemes have been introduced during past recessions, for example in the early 1990s through the Conservative government’s Housing Market Package, the report argued.
It also said that allowing social landlords to buy up distressed private properties in low-value areas could improve housing conditions and contribute to the government’s agenda to level up the country and reduce carbon emissions.
The commission said funding should be made contingent on landlords investing in a property to raise standards and that the fund could also be used to acquire properties on stalled sites to kick-start development.
While the fund will require almost £1.3bn in grant, it is calculated that with housing welfare savings and wider benefits, the net cost to government would be £623m.
Additionally, it has been calculated that the net economic benefits of increased housing, economic activity and distributional benefits would total £1.37bn over the next 30 years.
Lord Best, chair of the Affordable Housing Commission, said:
“We believe the chancellor has a great opportunity to stimulate the economy, boost jobs and tackle the housing crisis by backing plans for a national housing conversion fund.
“This would bring empty and run-down properties back to life, stimulate activity on stalled sites and assist landlords exiting the market, while addressing the acute shortage of homes at truly affordable rents.”
As construction continues to boost the economic outlook for the UK, with developers being given the go-ahead to keep sites open as new restrictions came into force for other sectors this week, Lord Best’s argument that investment in housing will stimulate the economy, boost jobs and tackle the housing crisis is a compelling one. And you don’t have to work in a property-related field (such as being a structural warranty specialist!) to see that an investment of this kind, which could create jobs, boost the economy and lead to the creation of 42,000 new affordable homes would prove popular with many. Or to believe that greater government support for the construction sector during the coronavirus outbreak could prove one of the most cost-effective ways of leaving a lasting legacy.