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This Must Be The Start, And Not The End, Of Building More Social Homes

06/10/2017 16:44 BST | Updated 06/10/2017 16:44 BST
Matt Cardy via Getty Images

Somewhat eclipsed by the kerfuffle over coughs, P45s and dodgy sets, was the welcome announcement by the Prime Minister of a new direction on building social homes.

It's worth remarking that this is quite a distance travelled. A few years ago, government policy was staunchly against building homes for social rent. Between 2010-2016, it reduced funding dramatically and even proposed selling off the few social homes we had left.

The government deserves credit for changing its course. It's good news that it is now acting to ease the misery of at least some private renters. If delivered, the new social homes promised will benefit some of the very people Shelter exists to help - those facing bad housing and homelessness.

It's true that the £2billion worth of funding that's been put forward is nowhere near enough by itself, especially when you consider that £10billion has been put behind boosting Help to Buy - a policy that does not help those on lower incomes who are in the greatest need of support.

The government has said that an investment of £2billion will buy the country an extra 25,000 social homes for rent. This will be 25,000 precious homes for families currently languishing in homeless hostels or those barely scraping by in expensive, unstable private renting.

But the job is not done. The new investment is a fraction of what's needed to address the sheer scale of the problem. There are currently 1.2million households on council house waiting lists, so let's hope the change of heart is worth more than the money currently on offer. This must be the start and not the end of the government's building ambitions.

We will be urging the government to ensure that this shift is more significant than the numbers behind it. We hope it represents a revived commitment to build a new generation of social housing with rents that are low enough to be genuinely affordable.

What is needed now is for the government to match its new rhetoric with policies designed to cope with how bad the housing crisis has become. This means a considerable increase in funding and a long-term investment plan, plus new powers for councils to help get land into development much more cheaply.

Only time will tell if ministers have the metal to turn these ambitions into reality, and finally deliver the homes that people on lower incomes desperately need. We will be working with them and campaigning hard to make sure that happens.

Polly Neate is the chief executive of Shelter