Local communities will be responsible for providing sufficient shelter for their residents, bringing the responsibility for planning land use to the same point as responsibility for housing.
We will start a community-focussed investment program to add at least 100,000 energy-efficient social housing units to the national stock every year, until the housing shortage is satisfied. Rapid build, high efficency housing focussed in brownfield sites has the possibility of doubling this target by combining direct funding of community projects.
The shortage of social housing
Millions of people are already waiting for social housing (over 1.7 million in England alone according to the charity Shelter), so obviously it will take time to make up for past failures. LIFE’s National Infrastructure investment program will kick start the rebuilding our our social housing stock, but in the meantime there will continue to be a shortage and Communities will have to prioritise those in greatest need.
House of Commons library research shows that the housing benefit budget had risen in real terms by 220% since 1985, while investment in housebuilding had fallen by 41%.
In the post-war period the number of new homes peaked at 352,000 in 1968, while the number of new social homes reached its highest level of 207,730 in 1954. In 2013, 22,510 social homes were built, out of a total of 109,640 newbuilds.
LIFE will support a planning system which is truly democratic, prioritises brownfield development, and delivers genuinely affordable housing where it is needed, by pushing control down to Communities.
There are currently 32,400 hectares of vacant brownfield land in England, some of which may have plans for future development (say in the next ten years) but in the meantime could provide homes in urban areas that are already well connected to both transport links and job opportunities. Using designs like “Homeshell” we can add 1.5 million homes in record time, and create local jobs.
Social Rent for Private Accommodation
In line with WellFair standards, landlords providing private rented accommodation to social tenants will have to negotiate directly with the Community government, and will be paid directly by that government. Payment for rent will not flow through the WellFair recipient.
Social tenants will not have a right to maintain residency in a specific housing unit. Social housing will be provided as best as the Community is able, and some tenants may have to share accommodations with other tenants. Communities may decide to build or use high density housing with some communal facilities. Housing for specific needs, such as elderly tenants with care needs, will be provided in the most efficient manner that the Community deems fit and efficient.
Whenever possible, Communities should provide their residents with the right to choose from available housing options. All WellFair services are provided as the fulfilment of a social promise, as a compliment to the rights of the recipients.
Right to Sell & Right to Buy
Community governments and local housing associations will be able to buy private housing according to the Right-to-Sell standards. The Right to Buy social housing by private buyers will be solely at the discretion of the local Assembly.
LIFE will set the Parker Morris Standards for space and EECSH Level 6 for efficiency as the basic requirements for social housing. Within 2 years the space and efficiency standards will be updated based on novel research about contemporary space usage and common activity.
WellFair shelter will operate very similarly to the way that social and Council housing operates today. Any citizen or resident can apply for housing and will be provided with such shelter as is available immediately, and standards-compliant shelter within a year. While there is no ‘means test’ to qualify for WellFair shelter, a ‘needs test’ will be necessary to prioritise sheltering those in greatest need.
Communities, in association with their Regions, will need to provide shelter in three categories:
- Standards compliant, long term social housing.
- Temporary accommodation for a maximum of one year.
- Emergency shelter for displaced people as a result of fire or other disaster.
Notes on the WellFair Shelter budget
Currently local government (Councils) raise £7.87Bn a year in rents (HRA) on Council housing. Councils raise £26.7Bn in Council Taxes, and pay £4.1Bn of that back against revenues they receive from Westminster.
With WellFair Shelter services no rent would be charged, and no Council Taxes payable. The government has supported the extension of Council Tax payments to all, however there have very significant difficulties collected those taxes from the poorest members of our communities.
If local government received no rent from social housing, and lost all of the Council Tax income they currently rebate to central government, the net revenue reduction would be £12Bn. All of this is included, and compensated for, in the Wellfair Shelter budget. This is an allowance for 18% drop in Council Tax revenues, which is at the absolute top end of likely outcomes as most of low earners have not had a Council tax obligation until recently, and even now most Councils are not collecting material revenues from this population.