The National Housing Federation launched its Homes at the Heart campaign this month, urging the government to put social housing at the centre of its economic recovery plan.
The campaign is supported by more than 60 housing groups, charities, banks and thinktanks. They argue that the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown has underlined the need for high quality, well-designed and affordable homes. This will be a major driver of economic recovery as every pound spent by the government on building new social homes generates at least £5 in local economies across the country, the federation said.
The NHF has suggested that the government earmarks “up to £3bn of the recently announced £12.2bn affordable homes budget to support the short-term recovery”. This would be used to fund additional flexibilities in the current grant programmes and extend the existing Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes Programme for an additional year to 2022, with the same conditions as the current programme, the federation added.
Karl Hick, Chairman of The Larkfleet Group of Companies, said: “We warmly welcome the NHF’s latest campaign. The housebuilding industry drives not only economic growth, but also provides much-needed housing to support sustainable communities.
“The provision of shared ownership and affordable homes is a crucial part of the industry as these tenures account for a significant proportion of new-build sales – to housing associations and private buyers.
“It is also critical for the housebuilding industry that the government extends its Help to Buy initiative, which lends purchasers up to 20 per cent of the cost of a newly built home – with as little as a 5 per cent deposit. This initiative has helped hundreds of thousands of people to buy well designed, good quality new-builds such as those built by Larkfleet Homes.
“The existing HTB scheme will be restricted to first-time buyers from April 2021 and includes regional property price caps that will weaken its effectiveness, given the severe economic conditions.
“Around 80 per cent of present sales relate to HTB, so if Help to Buy is phased out, as is currently planned, the market for newly built homes will fall off a cliff, housebuilders will go bust, and thousands of jobs will be lost. This would spell disaster for both the national and local economies, exacerbate the housing crisis and see communities fall apart.
“It is important to remember that the health of the housebuilding market is directly linked to the delivery of affordable homes. If sales fall away and housebuilders can’t afford to bring developments to the market – which include allocations for affordable homes – then opportunities for building this much-needed housing will be scarce. If sites can’t be started, then the government will have nowhere to spend its affordable housing budget, and its targets won’t be met.
“We must do everything we can to avert this looming disaster, both for the market and social housing delivery.”