Defend Council Housing (DCH) would welcome delivery of Theresa Mays offer to take personal responsibility for fixing the housing crisis, including a new generation of council homes.
However, her proposals will do no such thing. Based on experience, little if any of the £2bn extra housing capital programme funding will be used to build council homes.
Financial and other barriers prevent genuine council house building or improvement. The Private Registered Providers (former housing associations) competing for this funding, now build mostly for private rent and sale, not for social rent - see figures here and here.
1. To build REAL council housing requires genuinely affordable target rents and permanent, Secure Tenancies. So-called 'affordable' homes, at up to 80 per cent market rents, with fixed term tenancies of five years, aggravate housing problems, not solutions.
We need investment in new and existing publicly-owned homes with a directly-accountable landlord. Council housing funding must be restored to a sustainable level, and inflated Treasury debt levies removed.
2. DCH is extremely concerned at the governments failure to honour its promises about fire safety in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster. As the Prime Minister rightly said today, this tragedy should never have happened.
Government must provide the promised funding for fire safety improvements including sprinklers, in all council homes where these are needed. It is their responsibility.
Any commitment to new council housing must not be at the expense of existing tenants safety. Otherwise this is a housing policy based on robbing Peter to pay Paul.
3. A new generation of energy-efficient council housing is essential to meet real present housing need. However, the 2016 Housing and Planning Act requires local councils to sell-off high value council homes when they become empty. The government has not produced the detail on how they propose to implement this, but it remains a threat to any long-term investment in new council housing. If the Prime Minister is to deliver on her promise, the Housing and Planning Act must be repealed.
4. Alongside new council housing, government must take urgent action to control rents and improve security of tenure in the private rented sector. The fig-leaf of measures announced today and in the 2017 Housing White Paper are inadequate. It must also compel Private Registered Providers (formerly known as housing associations) to fulfill their social purpose. Currently they are building more homes for the private market than for social rent.
5. We note this government plans to continue investing much less public money into council and housing association homes for rent, than in subsidising the failing private housing market. Housing capital investment has been cut from £11.4bn in 2009 to £5.3bn in 2015 - see NHF report.
We have had enough false promises. Government must provide direct investment to improve and make safe existing homes, and build a new generation of 500,000 council homes at council rents with council tenancies.