Housing industry stakeholders have broadly welcomed Labour’s social housing green paper, which includes a pledge to redefine the term “affordable housing”. In the document, Labour says it wants to “define anew ‘affordable housing’ as linked to local income and scrap the Conservatives’ so-called ‘affordable rent’ homes, priced at up to 80 per cent of market rates”.
Labour has also said it wants to suspend Right to Buy, in order to “stop the sell-off of 50,000 social rented homes a year”, end all conversions to affordable rent and scrap the government’s plans to “force councils to sell the best of their homes”.
In addition, the party wants to give new funding, powers and flexibilities to councils and housing associations, in order to help them “build again at scale”.
This would be complemented by reforms in the planning system, which would include a new “duty to deliver affordable homes, an English Sovereign Land Trust to make more land available more cheaply and an end to the ‘viability’ loophole that lets developers dodge their contribution to more affordable homes”.
The National Housing Federation (NHF) has welcomed the green paper as a “positive statement of ambition” from Labour.
Indeed, NHF chief executive David Orr said it sets out “an important package of measures, which recognise the vital role that housing associations play in building the genuinely affordable and quality homes the country needs”.
Furthermore, he stated that he hopes the paper becomes “the catalyst for further important conversations between the sector and the Labour Party”.
The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has also responded to Labour’s pledges, pointing out that, in recent years, the definition of affordable housing has been “stretched to breaking point for many people”.
As a result, it believes “the time is right for a national debate on what genuinely affordable housing should look like in all parts of the country”.
Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the CIH, stated that the national housing crisis is causing “real hardship” for millions of people across the UK, which means a focus on affordability is “absolutely crucial”.
She argued that while increasing the number of homes being built is important, there also needs to be an emphasis on “building the right homes, in the right places, at the right prices”.
Ms Alafat went on to insist that social rent is the “only truly affordable option” for many people on lower incomes.
However, she said that “not only are we failing to build enough of these homes, we are actually losing them at an alarming rate”.
Ms Alafat added that CIH research predicts that around 230,000 homes for social rent will have been lost between 2012 and 2020, which she said is “simply unacceptable”.