Historic low levels of spending on social housing can no longer be ignored by the Government in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, the National Housing Federation warned today.
The lobby group is urging the Tories to get a grip on the growing crisis, which has led to more than a million people languishing on the waiting list for an affordable place to live.
The Federation released figures showing that, despite an increase in demand, the amount of money spent by the Government on building homes dropped from £11.4billion in 2009 to £5.3billion in 2015.
As a proportion of Gross Domestic Product, the amount spent on social housing fell from 0.5% in 1995 to just 0.2% in 2015.
Labour said the figures showed ministers “have washed their hands of any responsibility” for getting families into affordable homes.
The warning came ahead of the start of the Housing Federation’s annual conference, due to begin today at the ICC in Birmingham – with Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid delivering the keynote speech.
Speaking ahead of the conference launch, the Federation’s chief executive David Orr, said: “It is absurd that we’re spending less on building social housing than we did in the nineties – there are even more people today on housing waiting lists than then despite increasingly stringent criteria.
“We know we need more, better quality social housing.
“And yet, rather than putting public money into building the homes we need, we are propping up rents in a failing market. Ultimately, this is poor value for the taxpayer and has a knock-on effect on everyone struggling to rent or buy.
“The Prime Minister is right that we’ve not paid social housing enough attention. After the tragic fire at Grenfell, this crisis can no longer be ignored.
“The Government must be bold and make a break with the past by making money available to build genuinely affordable homes.”
Orr called for the Government to redirect a pot of £1billion set aside for Starter Homes into building 20,000 “genuinely affordable homes the nation needs.”
Construction of new social homes has dropped dramatically since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.
In 2009, building work started on 39,492 homes for social rent. By 2016 that number had dropped to 944.
The National Housing Federation report read: “What we really need is to build more homes for social rent. Homes that offer safety and security to families that are struggling to make ends meet. Homes for the poorest and most in need. And for that to happen on the scale needed, government investment in homebuilding is vital.”
Alongside a drop in social home construction, the amount of money handed over to landlords in the private sector through housing benefit has continued to grow.
Between 1995/96 and 2015/16, spending on housing benefit increased by 51%, going from £16.6billion to £25.1billion.
Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey said: “Conservative Ministers have washed their hands of any responsibility to build the homes families on ordinary incomes need.”
He added: “Ministers try to hide their failure to build more affordable homes by branding more homes ‘affordable’. The Conservative definition of affordable housing now includes homes close to full market rent and on sale for up to £450,000.
“Ministers have turned their back on the millions of families struggling with high housing costs.
“It’s no wonder that public concern about housing is around the highest level in 40 years.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government did not respond to HuffPost UK’s request for a comment.