Architects have criticised the government’s new social housing green paper as ‘more of the same’ after it failed to commit any new funding for building council homes
The document, published yesterday, was billed as a ‘fundamental shift’ in the state’s approach to social housing and proposed a range of measures, including improving the design quality of social rented properties.
Launching the paper, housing secretary James Brokenshire said the government must challenge the false assumptions that ‘people in social housing don’t deserve or demand quality customer service or good design.’
But while welcoming the emphasis on design quality, architects have echoed criticism from the wider social rented sector on the absence of any new cash for building homes.
RIBA president Ben Derbyshire branded the paper ‘dissappointing’, adding it did not do nearly enough to tackle the housing crisis and the severe shortage of affordable housing.
‘We have over one million people on waiting lists and up to 60,000 households are declared homeless and in immediate need of a place to live each year. This is a national disgrace and the only way for us to tackle the problem is for the state to play a more active role.
‘For too long the UK’s housing crisis has blighted our country whilst governments fail to grasp the severity of the situation. The blunt truth is that while this has been sold as a new deal, it seems to be more of the same.’
Chris Romer Lee of Studio Octopi also criticised the lack of funding for new homes. ‘There’s no extra government money for local authorities to build council homes and absolutely no mention of lifting the borrowing cap for councils,’ he said.
Dismal interview with @kitmalthouse on @BBCRadio4 - #Tories only funding 6000 social rent homes next year and 12,000 for the following. The promised ‘revolution’ in #housing post #Grenfell nowhere to be seen.— Chris Romer-Lee (@chrisromerlee) August 14, 2018
Homelessness charity Shelter’s chief executive Polly Neate said that the green paper was ‘full of warm words but doesn’t commit a single extra penny towards building the social homes needed by the 1.2 million people on the waiting list.’
Measures proposed in the green paper include league tables for housing associations, enabling tenants to gradually purchase their own home through shared ownership, as well as ‘sharper teeth’ for the regulator of social housing.
A section titled ‘promoting good design’ outlined how residents were concerned that the design and quality standards of new homes were being ‘compromised to reduce costs’.
It read: ‘In some cases, developments have separate entrances for social and private residents. In others, social housing can be too easily identified, for example through different coloured front doors to private properties on mixed tenure estates.’
The report singled out Níall McLaughlin Architects’ Stirling Prize-shortlisted scheme in Whitechapel (pictured) as a good example of design in the social rented sector.
Brokenshire said: ‘Providing quality and fair social housing is a priority for this government. Our green paper offers a landmark opportunity for major reform to improve fairness, quality and safety to residents living in social housing across the country.’
In September, Brokenshire’s predecessor, Sajid Javid, said the social housing green paper would be the ’‘most substantial report of its kind for a generation’.
Steps to speed up the complaints process and improving dispute resolution
- The introduction of performance indicators and new league tables for housing associations
- Reforms to make it easier for tenants to buy their own homes, such as allowing them to purchase as little as 1% of their property each year through shared ownership.
- Giving the regulator of social housing ‘sharper teeth’ to intervene and ensure social homes are well managed and of decent quality.
- Permitting councils to ‘continue to have choice’ over their use of fixed-term tenancies
- A review of social housing regulation, with a call for evidence launched today on the current regulatory framework