Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, spoke yesterday (19th September 2017) at the annual conference of the National Housing Federation. In brief, he spoke about the importance of housing associations and promised to forward a green paper on social housing in England which will be a “wide-ranging, top-to-bottom review of the issues facing the sector, the green paper will be the most substantial report of its kind for a generation. It will kick off a nationwide conversation on social housing.”
Hello? Where have you been, Mr Javid? Have you not been listening? There has been a conversation about social housing, and housing in general, going on for a number of years and it goes something like this:
- There are not enough homes
- There are not enough new homes being build
- The homes that are being built are not affordable for ordinary people
- Rents in the private rented sector are increasingly unaffordable
- The freeze of Local Housing Allowance means those on benefit can’t afford even the cheapest private rented accommodation
- There has been a massive increase in homeless households since 2010/11
- Rough sleeping numbers have increased by 146% since 2010/11
- The benefit cap is causing homelessness
- Universal Credit is seeing tenants getting into arrears, 77% for the first time
- The threatened LHA cap has seen the development of new specialist supported housing grind to a halt
- Grenfell Tower
Mr Javid, you are the Secretary of State with responsibility for housing. Your party has been in government since 2010. Surely you must have been thinking about these issues since then? Surely you must have some idea of what the current situation is? Surely you must have some idea of what needs to be done? We need more than platitudes.
Of course the government hasn’t stood idly by since 2010. It has been active in welfare reform, although we are yet to see the benefits promised while the hardship being caused is obvious to all to see and the consequences are being felt by tenants and landlords alike.
Mr Javid, you recognised that “businesses need to know that economic regulations aren’t going to dramatically change without warning.” Do you mean regulations dramatically changing such as the decision taken by your government in 2015 to tear up the rent settlement between government and housing associations and to impose a 1% year on year reduction in rents we can charge?
Mr Javid, you said: “They (businesses) need a stable, predictable base on which to build – literally, in your case! And of course lenders need to know that a company is a reliable investment prospect before they’ll put up any money.”
So, why, Mr Javid, did you fail to make the announcement on rents that we have long been promised? You said: “Right now, you’re trying to make long-term investment decisions without knowing what your rental return is going to be after 2020. It’s not ideal, of course I get that. You need certainty and you need clarity and you need them sooner rather than later. That’s why I’ve been pushing right across government, as hard as I can, to confirm the future formula for social housing rents. I would have liked to stand here today and tell you exactly what it is going to be. Unfortunately, I have to tell you, the t’s are still being crossed and the i’s dotted. But I can promise you this: an announcement will be made very, very soon.”
We don’t need more conversations. We need action. We need homes, and those homes must have social rents. The hopes and aspirations of hundreds of thousands of households depend on this announcement. Please don’t let them down, Mr Javid.