INDUSTRY figures have expressed misgiving about the potential impact of Robert Jenrick MP’s proposed ‘right to buy’ shared ownership on the delivery of social housing.
Yesterday, appearing at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, the secretary of state for housing unveiled proposals to offer prospective homebuyers the chance to purchase as little as 10% of a newbuild home.
The proposal is essentially the Government’s plan to revamp the national shared ownership model announced back in August. If nothing else, it shows that the Conservatives under Boris Johnson are far cooler on social housing – even in rhetorical terms – than the previous regime under Theresa May.
“For we Conservatives, helping people to own a home has always been at the heart of our moral mission,” Jenrick told the conference in his speech. “And the property-owning democracy is a perpetual goal for which our party strives to ensure that every generation has the opportunity to benefit.
“So, while some people say we should give up on homeownership, that’s not my way. I believe in ownership as the bulwark of individual freedom, bringing security, dignity and independence. So I will redouble our efforts.”
But the housing message emerging from the conference has caused misgivings, with concerns that the Government’s stance will damage efforts to tackle the housing crisis.
Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said the sector shares the Government’s commitment to help more families into homeownership, but warned that social housing remains a necessity.
“We are concerned that these proposals could make it harder for housing associations to build new social rent homes,” she said. “Our priority will be to ensure that any changes allow us to safeguard the country’s existing social rent homes but also to continue to build these homes for future generations.”
“With homelessness at the highest level in ten years – we need more than ever to protect our existing homes for social rent, and to build more of them.”
“Lenders to the social housing sector view and value shared ownership homes differently to social rent homes. This announcement could affect not just the sector’s existing loans, but also the amount the sector can borrow in the future to build new homes.”
“Any new Government policy must not undermine the ability of housing associations to raise the vital funds needed to build new social rent homes, particularly at this time of already considerable uncertainty.”
“Before the Government proceeds with these proposed changes, it is absolutely critical they take the time to understand how the sector’s lenders may react and how this may impact on our ability to build new social rent homes.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “[The] package of housing policies offers nothing to the average renter who has no savings of their own, and fails to reverse the decimation of social housing in this country.
“Research shows that 83% of social renters have no savings at all, so plans to extend the offer of shared ownership to new housing association tenants simply don’t add up. Worse still, this risks losing even more of the few social homes we have left – spelling disaster for the millions stuck on housing waiting lists.
“The Government is in danger of missing a huge opportunity. Voters of every political persuasion have made it clear they want more social housing, not less. It’s high time the government listened – the only way to end the housing emergency is to build three million homes in the next 20 years.”