Councillor Rachel Blake attended a Housing, Communities and Local Government select committee meeting on Monday (9th March) in Parliament and made the case for the government to take radical action to address the housing crisis.
The cross party committee of MPs is currently looking at how social housing is provided and Councillor Blake gave evidence about the 19,000 residents on the housing waiting list in Tower Hamlets and the innovative approaches local councils are taking to deliver for residents, despite the constraints placed on them by central government.
In the week where the government will be announcing its budget, Councillor Blake made the case for a focus on delivery of social housing. As part of her evidence she told the committee that while Tower Hamlets is delivering 2,000 council homes many families at her advice surgery are struggling to afford rents in the private rented sector as demand outstrips supply.
Councillor Blake raised concerns about the loss of council homes through right to buy and around 6000 ex-council homes are now being let by private landlords, with around 400 letting more than one property. Meanwhile councils are forced to pay high rents when they place homeless families in the private rented sector due to a lack of council homes.
She called for a suspension of Right to Buy as money from the receipts of sales of council homes to tenants who exercise their ‘right-to-buy’ have strings attached making it hard for councils to build like-for-like replacements.
Council housing stock numbers have fallen in every year since 1979. The latest Homes England statistics show that of 57,543 properties funded with government grant, 29,604 were for ‘affordable homeownership’ and only 913 were for ‘social rent’.
While the Government has set a target of delivering 300,000 new homes per year by mid-2020 only 3% of this target would be social homes built by local authorities. Housing charity Shelter has warned that over 3 million new social homes would need to be built over a 20-year period to address social housing need which is significantly higher than the Government’s current plans.
Councillor Rachel Blake, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Planning, Air Quality and Tackling Poverty said: “I wanted to let MPs know about the massive housing need in our borough which government policies have done little to solve. The people at my advice surgery who are in overcrowded housing need action now and I hope the evidence this committee hears leads to positive changes.
“I called on the government to invest in long term funding for new council homes, support local councils with housing delivery skills, and support partnerships across the public sector to provide land and finance for affordable homes.
“While I’m proud that we are delivering 2,000 new council homes in Tower Hamlets and working with other providers to deliver some of the highest levels of affordable housing in the country we could do more if government let us.”
You can watch the select committee session here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/361cdcc7-644e-435f-bb7c-4f27c4e109f1?in=17:14:19
Spoke to @CommonsHCLG earlier today about how to get more genuinely affordable homes built in @TowerHamletsNow 🏡
✅ invest in long term funding from govt
✅ support local govt delivery skills
✅ support partnerships across public sector for affordable homes pic.twitter.com/WE3BGgAQXw
— Rachel Blake (@RNBlake) March 9, 2020