Shelter report recommends major shake-up of social housing

The final report from the Shelter social housing commission calls for more than 3m new social homes to be built over the next two decades, extended social tenants’ rights, and greater regulation of the private rented sector.

Shelter, the national homelessness charity, has published a report which calls for more investment in social housing to resolve the country’s growing housing crisis.

The Shelter Commission included former Labour leader Ed Miliband and chair of the Conservative party under David Cameron, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, as well as Dame Doreen Lawrence and Grenfell Tower Action Group chair Edward Daffarn.

It has recommended levels of social housing building much higher than previous studies.

This is against the backdrop of record low social house-building since 2010 and a doubling of homelessness and rough sleeping over the same period.

There are 1.2m households on social housing waiting lists in England, an expensive and insecure private rented sector, and social tenants not having a say in the management of their communities; brought into sharp relief by the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The Commission’s analysis suggests that building the recommended 3.1m social homes would cost £10.7bn a year.

However, around two thirds of this investment would be covered by savings to the housing benefit bill, since social rents are lower than those in the private rented sector, and through extra tax revenue generated from the investment.

Perhaps one of Shelter’s most radical proposals is to create a new consumer regulator to protect renters in both social and private sectors. Eviction from the expensive and insecure private rented sector is now the main cause of rising homelessness.

Alongside, Shelter recommends that social tenants should be able to appeal to strengthened social housing standards, in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, which should be strongly enforced by the social housing regulator to hold failing social landlords to greater account.

Shelter also calls for replacement of sold-off social homes under David Cameron’s ‘re-invigorated’ Right to Buy, and a commitment to mixed housing communities without the recent pernicious trend of add-in ‘poor doors’ to differentiate between social renters and home owners.

While the Shelter recommendations are unlikely to be accepted in full, there is some scope post-Brexit for some movement to revitalise the social housing sector and offer new hope to tenants, so badly weakened by housing and welfare policies since 2010.

Kevin Gulliver – is Director of Birmingham-based research charity the Human City Institute, is former Chair of the Centre for Community Research, and part of the SHOUT save social housing campaign, but writes in a personal capacity. His interests are social and economic policy, especially relating to housing, health, wellbeing, communities, deprivation and disadvantage, and inequalities.

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