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Jonathan Rolande: Times to ask serious questions about the UK's social housing crisis

Last week the Government published new housing data which has largely gone unreported. 

The vacuum was probably linked to the Budget, and the fact journalists have been dedicating so much time dissecting the details of Jeremy Hunt’s desperate last bid to save his job.

But as the Chancellor faces up to moving out of Number 11, the statistics are very important to reflect on.


They reveal how, according to official figures, there were 1.29 million households on local authority waiting lists at 31 March 2023.

That’s an increase of 6% compared to 31 March 2022 and the highest it has been since 2014.

The highest in a decade. 

Now, you only have to spend five minutes on Google to find that across the UK in 

towns and cities people are desperately waiting in line for social housing. 

And here’s the problem - the shortage is going to get a lot, lot worse.

So why aren’t we talking about it more?

There is a lot of debate right now over the merits of Right To Buy. My view is it should not be abolished – it is often the only way that less advantaged people can purchase their own home. The issue does however cause a reduction in available stock unless each property sold results in at least one being built.

It is not uncommon for applicants to wait up to ten years for a home meaning that in the meantime, they must rent in the private sector.

Much of the cost of this is met by councils paying rent to private landlords. Ironically, a ready supply of tenants drives demand from landlord investors, fuelling house price increases and making the hope of buying a home less attainable for many. 

The more I reflect on last week’s Budget the less surprised I am that Mr Hunt airbrushed out property. 

We are in a housing crisis and solving it takes big ideas, big thinking - and time. 

The Chancellor doesn’t have at least one of those. 

But whoever ends up in power after the next General Election simply has to. Surely now, radical ideas are needed. After all, the status quo has failed.

We need to start asking serious questions. 

Should the sale of social housing be paused?

Could money from sales in wealthy urban locations be diverted to poorer areas where the need is as great, but more homes could be built with the same funds?

Councils look to the government for big ideas and solutions, but how many are sitting on unused or underused sites in their own borough? 

Research in 2020 showed Birmingham alone has more than 4000 empty garages, and there are around 100,000 nationally.

Why aren’t these demolished to make way for homes? This would be classic brownfield development.

Over 1.2 million people are waiting for social housing in Britain – that’s 4% of all households. 

Levels of homeownership are lower than in most parts of Europe. It’s a shameful record, which we desperately need to improve on - and which we can’t afford to ignore for much longer.


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    What about all the derelict buildings you can see all around Manchester/Greater Manchester? Why aren't they renovated to provide more housing ??


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