We can build 100,000 affordable homes a year by 2020, says report

It could be possible to build up to 100,000 affordable public homes a year to rent and buy by 2020, according to Shadow Housing Minister John Healey who is to release a major discussion report today.

The report draws on work done with PricewaterhouseCoopers to show that a housebuilding programme of this sort could pay for itself in lower housing benefit payments.

The discussion paper, which is not Labour policy and makes no recommendations, shows that there are alternatives to the intensifying housing crisis and rising housing benefit bill if government, councils and housing associations were to play a bigger role in providing homes to rent and buy.

The housing benefit bill has historically grown faster under the Conservatives than Labour, it says, with a higher average increase under Cameron than under Blair and Brown. If unemployment benefits had grown at the same rate as housing benefit over the last 35 years, they would be around £275 per week rather than £65 per week as they are now.

The number of working families claiming housing benefit has doubled in the last Parliament to over 1 million reveals the report which warns that without action costs will continue to soar.

An ambitious programme of affordable public homes to buy and rent could pay for itself in 26 years it says purely through lower housing benefit payments, returning a ‘profit’ to the Exchequer of £5.8bn over 30 years.

“After five years of failure with the Tories, it is time to think bigger and be bolder about how we could fix Britain’s chronic housing problems. I hope this report helps kick off the wide debate I believe is needed in the country about our housing costs crisis,” says Healey.

“In the first year of a new five year Parliament it is time for a serious conversation about the problems millions of people face with little hope of a decent, affordable home to buy or rent.

“The truth is the cost of housing crisis is big enough for every part of the public and private sector to play a much bigger part.

“This report shows that public investment in building low rent homes could reduce the housing benefits bill, and produce a profit in the long-run for the taxpayer. It demonstrates how we could be building 100 000 new council and housing association homes each year by 2020, and how the investment cost would be covered in full by savings to housing benefit.

“Building more new public homes is good social policy, and sound fiscal policy too. A better deal for tenants and for taxpayers.”

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