Many of the problems in English housing are deeply embedded. Demand has heavily outstripped supply for decades. Homeownership is too often out of reach. Social housing is being residualised. The private rented sector remains largely unprofessional and insecure and those who live in it have too little control. Meanwhile, the housing benefit bill soars at over £20 billion a year, and rising. England remains one of the richest countries in the world, but it is failing properly to house its people. The result is a segregated system with insufficient mobility between housing sectors and social divisions that are entrenched rather than overcome.
Housing policy has been piecemeal and disjointed across various departments under governments of all colours. To repair this, our report seeks to offer a coherent new strategy for housing policy in the round.
- First, we make a social argument for homeownership as a way to foster mixed, stable, integrated communities. We suggest ways to increase housing supply to make homeownership a more realistic prospect for more people by reforming housing finance, the development industry, planning policy and credit control. To build now, we argue, is to invest in our future.
- Second, we propose a better deal for renters. This would mean reasonable regulation of privately rented property, matched by greater flexibility in social housing.
- Third, and most radically, we advocate a new form of progressive localism in housing, through a system of affordable housing grants. In doing so, we address directly how we would change the way £25 billion of public money is spent each year on housing: by decentralising power, resources and responsibility in order to shift public spending, over time, away from benefits and back towards bricks and mortar.
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