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Councils across England are warning that homes created using permitted development rights are a potential threat to people’s health and wellbeing, with the most vulnerable people in society being more at risk.

A new report ‘Housing for a fairer society: The role of councils in ensuring stronger communities’ has found that:

  • Half of councils in England think permitted development housing could threaten people’s health and wellbeing
  • Half of councils in England think vulnerable people are disproportionately negatively affected by permitted development
  • Demand for affordable housing has remained unchanged for four consecutive years, with 59% of UK councils reporting ‘severe’ shortages
  • The findings, published in a report by APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) and written by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), show that local authorities across
  • the UK are reporting ‘severe’ shortages of affordable housing for the fourth consecutive year, with only 2% claiming their need is ‘not substantial’

Further, three quarters of councils in England and Wales said they rely on developer contributions as their main source of income for delivering affordable housing, calling into question the efficacy of the government’s market-led approach to housing delivery.

Paul O’Brien, Chief Executive of APSE, said “It is ironic that as we celebrate a 100 years since the advent of council housing, and the ‘Addison Act’ standards on space and public amenities that were so innovative and important to the health and wellbeing of communities we are now witnessing a serious regression of these protections.

“Permitted developments are in danger of becoming the new slum housing of the 21st century, de facto permitting a dangerous slide into deregulated and ultimately damaging housing provision.”

Fiona Howie, Chief Executive of the TCPA added “Local authorities have a powerful role in shaping existing and new places that can enhance people’s health and wellbeing, but it is essential that they have the tools they need. This report highlights there is still much to be done to enable local authorities to deliver the affordable houses people so desperately need.”

Among the report’s recommendations is the suspension of the right to buy in England, the reinstatement of a definition of affordable housing which links affordability to income and the adoption of ‘community benefit clauses’ in planning policy to ensure that local authorities consistently maximise the wider benefits of the construction and development process.

Analysis of the latest homelessness statistics by the National Housing Federation has found that for every one new social home built in England, eight families are accepted as homeless by their local council.

Government figures show that 42,810 families were accepted as homeless in England last year, 117 families every day, with more than two thirds of these single parents.

In comparison only 5,385 new social rent homes were built in the same period – equivalent to 14 per day.

Ten years ago, five more new homes for social rent were built every day than families accepted as homeless.

These homes are typically 50% of market rent and are therefore the most affordable and secure type of housing for these families.

Since councils have a legal duty to house children, homeless families are often housed in temporary accommodation. New National Housing Federation analysis has also found the number of children living in temporary accommodation has risen by 81% since its low point in June 2011, from 68,770 to 124,490 children. At the current rate of house building, it is likely to reach the highest ever recorded by 2022.

When social rent funding was halted in 2010, the number of new social homes being built plummeted. This has put a massive strain on available social housing, with increasing numbers of low income families left with no possible means of accessing a secure and affordable home. This has contributed to many more families ending up in temporary accommodation and staying there for longer.

In 2018 the government made its first commitment in ten years to building homes for social rent, but at £2bn this was only intended to build 25,000 homes over five years. Research by the National Housing Federation shows that England needs as many as 90,000 new social rent homes every year to house those most in need, including homeless families and those on waiting lists. This is over 17 times the number currently being built.

The National Housing Federation is calling on the government to invest serious amounts of money over the long term in building more social housing and to use the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review to do this.

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation said “The shocking disparity between the number of families made homeless every day and new social homes being built, puts into stark perspective how far away we are from meeting our housing need.

“Homeless families are just the tip of the iceberg, there are thousands more in equally desperate need, living in severe poverty, overcrowding and unable to afford their rent. This is having a lasting and detrimental effect on hundreds of thousands of children affecting their mental and physical health.

“This should be a massive wake up call for the government to take urgent action to increase the number of social homes being built every year, and commit significantly more funding for social housing in the next Government Spending Review.”

Two years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, Shelter is warning the government must listen to the third of families with children in social housing who feel less safe in their homes and take urgent action to prevent further tragedies.

The government is proposing a new building safety regulator, but the housing charity fears this will not go far enough to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all tenants is protected. That is why Shelter is standing with Grenfell United to call on the government to introduce a tough, new consumer regulator that protects tenants and proactively inspects social landlords.

New figures released by Shelter show that over half (56%) of social renters in England – five million people – have experienced a problem with their home in the last three years, including electrical hazards, gas leaks and faulty lifts. Among those who had a problem, one in 10 had to report it more than 10 times, suggesting tenants are still being failed by poor regulation.

Worryingly, the survey carried out by YouGov shows that over the same period more than 400,000 people encountered an issue with fire safety, which also affected their neighbours in over two-fifths of cases.

Shelter is concerned that the current regulator of social housing exists mainly to oversee finances and is not exclusively focussed on addressing the concerns of residents or tackling problem landlords head-on. In fact, almost three-quarters (72%) of social tenants in England have never heard of the current regulator.

The research also reveals a deep mistrust in the government since the Grenfell Tower fire, with half saying they have less trust in the government to keep social tenants safe in their homes. Another third says the government’s response has made no difference. This is why Shelter and Grenfell United believe that only a new consumer regulator can protect tenants and rebuild trust.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said “Social tenants living in Grenfell Tower raised serious safety concerns before the fire, but they were ignored. Two years on, social renters are still being failed by poor regulation and people are still fighting to be heard.

“In the wake of food scandals and financial scandals, the government responded with new regulators to protect consumers, and that’s exactly what we need for social housing. It cannot be right that scores of complaints and problems that affect whole blocks of flats, like faulty lifts or gas leaks, go unheard. We need a new regulator that’s firmly on the side of tenants.

“Tinkering with the current system just isn’t good enough when people have lost trust in it to keep them safe. That’s why we stand with Grenfell United in calling on the government to establish a new consumer regulator, which inspects social landlords and listens to groups of tenants when they say something isn’t right.”

Natasha Elcock, Chair of Grenfell United, the bereaved families and survivors’ group added “People were raising the alarm about fire safety in Grenfell before the fire, but they were ignored and belittled. The current housing regulator did nothing for us, it was entirely invisible. And two years later, despite all the promises, we still hear from people across the country who are not being listened to about their homes.

“If we want to stop another Grenfell fire, we need serious change – change that will genuinely make a difference to people living in social housing. We need a new system, not a rebrand of the current one. The government introduced a new regime for the banking industry after the financial crash, it should be doing the same for the housing sector. After all, what could be more important than people’s homes.”

New research from the National Housing Federation reveals that the Government must invest £12.8bn a year to finally end the housing crisis in England.

Over ten years, this investment would kick start a nationwide housebuilding programme of around 1.45 million social homes to rent and shared ownership properties to buy across the country. It would stimulate the economy and help more buyers to get on the housing ladder, all while ensuring that millions of people no longer get stuck in inappropriate homes or on the streets.

Now, a coalition of leading housing groups and charities is calling for the Government to make this significant investment in ending the housing crisis. This includes the National Housing Federation – which represents social landlords to six million people – Shelter, Crisis, CPRE, and the Chartered Institute of Housing.

By investing £12.8bn per year, in today’s prices, they argue that the Government would take spending levels back to those last seen under Churchill’s government in the early 1950s, when enough homes were being built to meet the country’s needs.

The coalition argues that a stimulus from the Government is the only way to solve the housing crisis, since the private market alone cannot build the quantities or types of homes the country needs.

Over the course of ten years, this Government investment would amount to £146bn, including inflation. This would cover about 44% of the total cost of this construction boom, unlocking the rest of the money which can then be raised from other sources.

The research also finds that investing in new homes would add £120bn to the economy each year, through the creation of local jobs in construction and other industries across the country. Effectively, every pound spent by the Government would generate at least £5, boosting the economy in a balanced and sustainable way.

It would also reduce the Government’s benefit bill over the course of the decade. Last year, the Government paid £22.3bn in housing benefit, a significant amount of which went into the pockets of private landlords to help cover rent for millions of low-income tenants. By moving many of these tenants into social housing, the Government would need to spend less on housing benefit over time, and so could save taxpayers tens of millions of pounds every year. This would also allow more people to build a solid foundation for their lives in social housing, aiding social mobility.

This new financial modelling is based on research, conducted by Heriot Watt University for the National Housing Federation and the homelessness charity Crisis, which showed that England needs to build 145,000 social homes every year for the next decade to both clear the current backlog of people who need a home and meet future demand.

Last year the Government spent £1.27bn on affordable housing, making housing one of the smallest government budgets, down 70% on 2010 levels. As a result, far fewer social rented homes are being built. In 2017/18, just 5,400 were built, compared to almost 36,000 in 2010/11 before funding was cut.

The chronic under-investment in housing has led to a 169% increase in rough sleeping, while the number of households in temporary accommodation is at a 10-year high. What’s more, 1.3 million children are currently living in poverty in expensive privately rented accommodation, while many young people are stuck at home with their parents, unable to build an independent life and start families of their own.

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, said “The housing crisis is an economic, social and human catastrophe. But it can be solved. And now, for the first time, we know exactly how much it will cost. By investing £12.8bn in affordable housing every year for the next decade, the Government can ensure millions of people have a stable and affordable place to live, at the same time as strengthening the economy across the country.

“By investing this money in affordable housing at the upcoming spending review, the Government can help families all across the country to flourish. They can help children get out of poverty, give young voters a foot up on the housing ladder and help out private renters who have to empty their bank account every month.

“As well as being the right thing to do, investing to end the housing crisis also carries huge economic benefits. It will advance the country’s productivity, boost its economic growth and lower the benefit bill over time.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, added “The steep decline in social housing is at the core of the housing emergency that now effects so many. Social homes are what this country wants and what it needs – they are the best solution to the problems we face and an opportunity to unite the country.

“Successive governments have failed to build social housing – while homelessness spirals and half of young people will never be able to buy. Now is the time to act for the millions of people trapped in housing poverty, and invest real resources where it matters most.

“Charting a course to build a new generation of social homes must be a key test for whoever walks through the doors of Number 10. The race to eradicate homelessness and provide millions with a stable home, is a race that every politician should be trying to win.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, concluded “Right now, thousands of people across England are finding themselves on the brink of homelessness or are already experiencing it, in large part because of our huge shortage of social housing.

“The good news is we know it doesn’t have to be this way – and we know why this situation must change urgently. Homelessness has devastating effects on people’s mental and physical wellbeing that no one should have to experience. This can’t go on.

“Ultimately Government must invest in the number of social homes we need. Not only will this save the country millions of pounds in the long term, it will help us end homelessness once and for all – something we can’t afford to put off any longer.”

The Government needs to do more to remove the barriers to small to medium-sized (SME) house builders if its housing targets are to be met, according to industry experts the Federation of Master Builders, in response to the House of Commons Public Accounts Select Committee report, ‘Planning and the broken housing market’.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, (FMB) said “SME house builders are continuing to face numerous barriers to increasing their capacity to build the homes that are needed. The recommendations in the Public Accounts Committee’s report highlight that the planning system is delaying progress. It is completely unacceptable that sites are being stalled because planning departments are not dealing with applications quickly enough. Our members aren’t seeing any improvements in service since fees were increased in January last year – a policy the FMB supported.”

“The report finds that, as of December last year, only 42 per cent of local authorities had an up-to-date local plan which is truly disappointing. By allocating small sites for housing delivery in their local plan, local authorities will be reducing the burden of uncertainty for the nation’s small house builders, and therefore speeding up housing supply through better diversifying the sector. Furthermore, we must not forget the highly positive impact that these local businesses have on their areas, offering employment and training opportunities to local people.”

“Access to finance for SME house builders has undoubtedly improved over the last few years but the loan to cost ratio from most lenders is simply unviable for SMEs – especially the micro firms, building fewer than five units a year. The FMB House Builders’ Survey 2018 found respondents estimated that they could increase their out by 38 per cent if they could achieve a loan to value/cost ratio of 80 per cent. Government must work with the finance sector to understand how lending to small house builders can be increased and improved. The time is now for the Government to heed the warnings of the Public Accounts Committee.”

A report published today by APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) and written and researched by the TCPA finds that 98% of UK councils surveyed describe their need for affordable homes as either ‘severe’ or ‘moderate’.

UK councils are becoming increasingly unable to meet demands for affordable housing and 98% now describe their need as either ‘severe’ or ‘moderate’, with only 1% claiming that their need is not substantial.

The survey of 166 local authorities in Britain highlights the pressure on councils to meet the growing demand for affordable housing due to a lack of new homes being built and that many of those that are being built are not affordable to those in need.

The research highlights the cumulative impact of existing housing and planning policies in England—such as the 1 per cent annual rent reductions in the social rented sector and the continued deregulation and reform of the planning system—have reduced the ability of councils to secure genuinely affordable homes available for social rent.

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the TCPA, said “Our research reveals that Britain is facing an acute housing crisis with councils across the country increasingly unable to meet the need for affordable housing.

“The government must make tackling the housing crisis a priority. An ambition to increase housing numbers is not enough, we need to ensure that the homes that are built are affordable and well designed.”

By exploring a range of issues faced by councils, this study has identified how local authorities are already taking a more active role in housing delivery through entrepreneurial approaches, such as setting up local housing companies and innovative approaches to partnership working. Over two thirds (69%) of councils surveyed said that they already had or were thinking about setting up a local authority housing company either on their own or in partnership.

Paul O’Brien, Chief Executive of APSE concluded “A new wave of council homes would help support local economic growth, jobs and skills in our economy; housing could be an effective driver for a renewed industrial strategy but to achieve this we need to place local councils at the heart of delivery on housing need. That means the Government must provide the financial freedoms and flexibility for councils to deliver solutions to our chronic housing shortage.”

Local authorities across England will receive a share of £56.5 million to help support their preparations for Brexit.

The Treasury announced in December that MHCLG would receive £35 million to prepare for Brexit. MHCLG has now added an extra £21.5 million funding using finance from its 2018 to 2019 budget.

Councils will receive £20 million this financial year (2018 to 2019) and £20 million in 2019 to 2020 to spend on planning and strengthening their resources.

A further £10 million will be available in the next financial year (2019 to 2020). This funding is intended to help local authorities with specific costs which may arise following Brexit.

£1.5 million will be allocated in 2018 to 2019 only to local authorities facing immediate impacts from local ports, with the decision on the allocation and distribution of that funding to be announced shortly.

A further £5 million will be split by teams in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, local authorities, and Local Resilience Forums for specific purposes such as strengthening preparations and supporting communities.

The funding will help councils to adapt to the changes caused by Brexit, ensuring their local authority is prepared ahead of 29 March, whilst also protecting vital local services.

Councils will decide how to allocate their funding. It is expected that money will be spent on resources like recruiting extra staff to ensure councils have the capacity to provide timely and accurate information to residents who have questions on how Brexit will affect them.

Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, said “Local authorities have a critical role to play in making a success of Brexit in their areas.

“I’m determined to ensure councils have the resources they need, which is why I’m releasing £56.5 million of extra finance to help them to deliver essential services and keep residents well-informed.

“I will continue to work closely with local leaders to ensure they are prepared to respond to any Brexit scenario.

“This funding will not be the only resource councils receive from central government to fund Brexit costs. The government has been clear that departments will assess and, if appropriate, fund any potential new requirements of councils as part of EU Exit work they are undertaking.”

The Secretary of State will also continue to engage with the sector through the EU Exit Local Government Delivery Board and regular communications with stakeholders across the sector.

Britain could end homelessness within 10 years with the right measures in place, says a landmark report by the charity Crisis, backed by high-profile figures such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dame Louise Casey, and international homelessness experts.

Everybody In: How to end homelessness in Great Britain resets the current approach to homelessness and sets out the exact government policies needed to end it for good. It finds that everyone who is homeless could have a stable home within 10 years if the measures are adopted in full.

The plan comprises extensive new research, working with experts such as the Chartered Institute of Housing, Heriot-Watt University, National Housing Federation, and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC). It has also been endorsed by experts in the US, Canada, and Finland who are leading highly successful movements to end homelessness in their countries.

Crisis is calling on all political parties to commit to ending homelessness. It is also calling for the governments of England, Scotland and Wales to produce an action plan that, once delivered, will get everybody who is homeless into a safe and stable home within 10 years.

There are currently 236,000 people across England, Scotland, and Wales who are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness: this includes people living on the streets, in cars and tents, in shelters, or in unsuitable temporary accommodation. An average of three homeless people have died every week on UK streets since last October, recent research from the Bureau for Investigative Journalism revealed, showing the increasing dangers of homelessness.

The plan’s policy proposals are tailored for the governments of England, Scotland, and Wales. Its findings include:

  • 100,500 social homes need to be built each year for the next 15 years to meet the needs of both homeless people and the wider cohort of people in Britain on low incomes – including those at risk of homelessness.
  • A national rollout of Housing First would benefit more than 18,000 homeless people, by providing homes that come with a package of specialised support.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, parts of Britain dramatically reduced rough sleeping – one of the most visible forms of homelessness. Parts of Scandinavia and North America have now virtually ended rough sleeping.

Drawing on evidence of what works, the plan also sets out the policies needed to support people once they are housed. This includes better rights and longer tenancies for private renters, and reforming housing benefits so they meet the true cost of private renting.

Ending homelessness will also require hospitals, prisons, the care system, and other parts of the state to play a role, the research finds. These organisations should be legally required to help prevent people leaving their care from becoming homeless. The plan also proposes that job centres have homelessness specialists.

PwC has estimated the costs and benefits of the most targeted policies in the plan. They found that, over the next decade, these policies would cost £9.9 billion and deliver benefits worth £26.4 billion. This means that for every £1 invested, an estimated benefit of £2.70 would be generated.

These estimates cover the costs and benefits of solutions specifically related to homelessness, but not wider reforms that target broader low-income groups (such as house-building and certain welfare reforms).

While these benefits are significant, the moral argument for ending homelessness is equally important. Rough sleepers are 17 times more likely to be victims of violence, previous research from Crisis has shown.

Along with the newly commissioned research, the plan is the result of an 8-month consultation involving hundreds of frontline workers and people who have experienced homelessness.

Crisis is encouraging the public to get involved by emailing their MP, MSP or Assembly Member and asking them to call on their party leader to commit to ending homelessness.

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said “For the first time ever, we have a comprehensive plan that shows exactly how we can address the root causes of homelessness and make it a thing of the past. Other parts of the world are taking huge strides towards ending it, and Britain can too. We must not become a society that simply accepts homelessness as ‘a sad fact of life’, because the good news is that we know it doesn’t have to be this way.

“It’s been inspiring to see the recent surge in public support and political will to tackle homelessness, including strong commitments from all three governments. Now is the time to build on those commitments. With the right measures in place, we can do what it takes to end homelessness and make sure that no one in Britain has to face it again.”

Rachelle, a Crisis client and a member of the charity’s Experts by Experience panel, which worked closely on the plan, said “I got involved in this plan because I really wanted to help shape change. It’s been powerful to share my own experience of homelessness and come up with ideas about how to make things better. No one should be experiencing homelessness in this country. I really believe that if everyone plays their part, then we can do this.

“People’s perception of homelessness is often just people who are literally on the streets. But it’s something much wider than that. A hostel isn’t your home. Someone else’s sofa isn’t your home. When I became homeless, I ended up having to live in a hostel for almost a year.

“When you have nowhere to call home, it effects your mental health, your life overall. No one should have to go through that indignity. This Plan needs to succeed, I want to see it succeed.”

Crisis’ Experts by Experience panel is made up of people who are or have been homeless. Rachelle, aged 37, was homeless in Coventry in 2013.

Juha Kaakinen, CEO of Finland’s Y-Foundation, which has been at the forefront of Finland’s recent successes in virtually eradicating rough sleeping, said: “Everybody In: How to end homelessness in Great Britain is quite an extraordinary paper. You can read it as a highly ambitious report on state-of-the-art of homelessness policy. But it is much more: a manifesto and a roadmap to a policy that eventually could end homelessness for good. After this no one can say that they don’t know what should be done to end homelessness.”

Is it possible to end homelessness?

Examples from Britain and around the world

England: Between 1990 and 2006, two government initiatives had big successes with reducing rough sleeping. The Rough Sleepers Initiative ran 1990-1999 and rough sleeping in London fell by over 50% during its first two years. The Social Exclusion Unit, which succeeded and expanded on the initiative, cut rough sleeping by 68% across England in 1998-2002.

Finland: Finland has virtually ended rough sleeping and dramatically reduced other forms of homelessness. In 2008, Finland introduced Housing First, a scheme that quickly provides homeless people with a stable home and then offers them support services. In the 1980s, rough sleeping in Finland hit a high of 4,700 people. Today there is just one 52-bed temporary shelter in Helsinki.

Canada: Medicine Hat, a city in Alberta, announced in November 2015 that it had ended chronic homelessness. Like Finland, the town achieved this thanks to Housing First, which has also been adopted across Canada and in parts of the US.

Scotland: Scotland has cut rough sleeping by over 70% since 2003, after passing a law to gradually end the “priority need” system, under which only some homeless people are legally entitled to accommodation (single adults without children are typically not considered “priority need.”) Priority need was fully abolished in 2012, but the increase in who is eligible for support has caused a rise in people put in temporary accommodation – Crisis and others are campaigning for a seven-day limit on stays in unsuitable temporary accommodation. In England and Wales, priority need tests are still carried out.

Commenting on the formal opening of the Grenfell Tower inquiry today, CIH director for Northern Ireland Nicola McCrudden said: “The tragedy of Grenfell Tower has rightfully created a renewed focus on housing and health, and ensuring that these awful events never happen again. The victims and everyone affected by this tragedy are owed this, and more.”

Ms McCrudden said “We need a UK-wide discussion about the value and the future of social housing.

“For every person who fears for their safety after the tragedy, there are many more who cannot secure a home or who are struggling to keep their home.

“Fundamentally, everyone deserves to live in a safe home. Everyone should be able to close their front door and know that they are out of harm’s way.”

Ms McCrudden was speaking ahead of the CIH annual conference on health and housing today in Belfast. She said ensuring that people were safe and secure in their homes went far beyond physical housing standards as highlighted by Grenfell.

“We have an ageing population that wants to stay in their homes and communities. We need to adapt existing homes to meet their needs and ensure their wellbeing. We also need robust planning for more housing options for older people.

“Housing with care options can help people to regain independence and skills to care for themselves, including when they are discharged from hospital.

“Delays in discharging patients is one of the factors that prevents hospital beds being freed up, and increases pressure on A&E departments.

“Every waiting-list target in health is being missed in Northern Ireland. Housing can play a central role in relieving pressures on our health service, reducing demand for costly health and social care interventions.”

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