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Kerslake: 'Social housing is being written out of the script'

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Bob Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, has claimed the government is set to destroy social rented housing through measures in its Housing and Planning Bill

Mr Kerslake, who is now chairman of housing association Peabody and the Local Government Association, was speaking during the second reading of the bill in the House of Lords this week (26 January).

“The most significant impact of the bill is to promote one form of tenure, home ownership, at the expense of another: social rented housing.

”Taken with other measures being proposed by the government, the only reasonable conclusion is that social housing is being written out of the script.

”This effectively ends the post-war consensus on housing and the extremely successful partnership with housing associations begun in the 1980s.”

Kerslake criticised proposals in the bill to extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants, which would be paid for by forcing councils to sell off high-value stock.

He said: ‘The government says that the intention is to replace these one for one. But if we examine the bill, apart from the reference to London, nothing in it creates a duty for local authorities to do so.

‘Even if they are able to replace one for one, it is very unlikely to be in the same area because those are the very areas where the land is hardest to find.’

He also criticised government proposals to create a new class of ‘starter homes’, because they would replace, rather than add to the supply of new social rented housing.

Kerslake said: ‘I have real doubts about whether they will actually deliver the new homes of all types that this country so badly needs. As one major and very respected housebuilder said to me recently, where is the additionality in all this?’

Richard Best, former head of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, told the Lords: ‘The Bill robs Peter to pay Paul, even though Peter starts off in a worse position. The biggest winners are those who were going to buy anyway and now get substantial financial benefits – for nothing.’

Following the second reading, the bill will now pass to a committee of the whole house.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Ben Derbyshire

    The Housing Forum champions more and better housing so we applaud the commitment to build a million homes over the life of the parliament and we believe that improving housing supply is really the only effective way of tackling the affordability crisis. Whilst housing supply and planning approval numbers have both increased of late its a long road back to a balanced market which will need all sectors of the industry to play their part. So we have real concerns about demand side policies which rob social housing Peter to pay home owning Paul, whilst the boost to private housebuilding on the supply side should now be accompanied with more robust measures to ensure quality.

    We believe strongly that Government should be pulling all the levers available to them, supporting all forms of housing provision if it is to have any chance of success. The Housing Association movement has a crucial contribution to this endeavour and we hope that more can be done to put in place structures that will bolster their delivery of social, affordable, build-to-rent and shared ownership homes especially.

    Ben Derbyshire
    Chair, the Housing Forum
    Managing Partner, HTA Design LLP

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