Leading Surrey & Berkshire land agents Aston Mead have described the Government’s target to build just 10,000-12,000 social homes per year as “ludicrously low”.
The figure was announced in a BBC Radio 5-Live interview by Conservative MP and Housing Minister Kit Malthouse on Tuesday (8 January), despite the widely-held view that there is a shortfall of over 180,000 social homes nationwide.
Aston Mead Land & Planning Director Adam Hesse said: “The Government says it has set councils free to build a new generation of council homes in the UK. But to aim for a figure which is so far short of what is really needed makes a mockery of having a target in the first place. Local authorities should be aiming to build far more social homes every year – and they should be doing so on the swathes of council-owned land which are crying out to be developed across the country.”
Adam Hesse says that funding is for such building projects would be available if council money was diverted from more questionable investments, which are often situated hundreds of miles away from their local area.
He explains: “This is quite clearly not a question of a lack of available money. Local authorities are still spending £100m every month buying retail centres, shops and offices, chasing returns to replace revenue lost in government cuts. That’s a total of £1.8bn in the last year, and more than £3bn since 2013.
“Instead, these funds should be invested in building social housing, meaning that the councils could keep hold of their assets, at much lower risk and at higher returns than gambling on sub-standard investments on the commercial property market.”
In his recent 5-Live interview, Housing Minister Kit Malthouse admitted that over the years, all governments had not built enough homes of all types, which included social housing.
Adam Hesse added: “But setting a ludicrously low target when it’s obvious that councils could do so much more to build on their own land is madness. If the Government is aiming to construct 300,000 new homes every year, they are going to need a full complement of house builders to help them achieve it. That means local authorities should concentrate on building social housing, while private construction firms build the rest.
“Not only would this guarantee the creation of thousands of desperately-needed affordable homes, it would also allow the private house-building sector to regenerate, and grow again from the crash of 2008, when 50% of small house-builders were completely wiped out.
“So while Help to Buy is available to assist people buying a home, we believe a higher percentage of affordable housing on every new scheme should be social housing – in order to alleviate a massive problem in this country, which will otherwise only get even worse.”