At its National Conference last week the ecumenical campaigning group Housing Justice launched an alternative manifesto for housing.
Housing Justice Director Alison Gelder presented the conference with four myths which are barriers to creating the affordable secure housing that our nation needs.
1. We don't need to build more homes - we already have enough to go round.
2. Britain is full - there is no room for more houses
3. We can't afford more social housing
4. Renting is always inferior to buying.
Gelder demolished these myths using evidence from the government's own data on housing and land use as well as research by a number of independent think tanks. Demolishing the myths she said: "The number of households is increasing at the rate of about 250,000 per year while net housing supply grew by only 121,200 last year. This gap has been growing and according to the IPPR by 2025 we will have a shortfall of about 750,000 homes. We do need more homes.
"The Land utilisation survey shows that only 1.1% of the land area of England is used for housing, so there is plenty of space to build providing we develop sensitively and with relatively high density.
"Meanwhile the cost of housing support (Local Housing Allowance / Housing Benefit) is around £23bn a year, while public spending on new social housing is only £4.5bn a year. Investing part of the £23bn into building new social housing would create jobs (in building and related trades) and the housing support bill would reduce each time
someone in receipt of LHA transferred to a cheaper social or affordable tenancy. So more social housing would both save money and boost the economy."
On improving the attractiveness of renting Ms Gelder said that the answers included: "Introducing greater stability through increased security of tenure; Fair rent regulations; promoting new or existing asset classes; and a more attractive rental market would also help to stabilise house prices, reducing the compulsion to own a home as an investment asset. Churches have been prominent in the Credit Union movement; what role could churches play in developing community assets for tenants?"
She urged Housing Justice members and supporters to shout the truth about the myths from the rooftops, to promote appropriate development in their area, to lobby (nationally and locally) for fair rents, investment in social housing and improved security of tenure and conditions for private renters and to think about how to develop new assets classes to break the link between investment and housing and turn the focus back to creating the homes we need.
The Conference, called "Housing and Homelessness: Busting the Myths", welcomed more than 80 delegates from churches and church linked housing and homelessness initiatives from across the country. Other speakers included Mark Russell of the Church Army, Linda Mcgowan, DCLG specialist adviser on homelessness, and John Battle, former MP for Leeds West. Workshops were presented by the National Community Land Trust Network, Triodos Bank, Green Pastures, Boaz Trust and others.
For more information see: http://www.housingjustice.org.uk