In June 2020, the prime minister promised that the government would ‘build back better’ to tackle the biggest economic recession in living memory, ‘for the benefit of every corner of the country’. It was a welcome statement, which built on comments in March from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, who stated that no one should lose their home as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
However, despite these statements of intent, the government has not yet announced a plan that will build stable homes and strong communities across the country, as we continue to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. Our services continue to help people every day who are trapped in insecure, unaffordable, or unsuitable housing.
New research from Shelter shows that nearly a fifth of private renting parents – 458,000 adults – are more concerned that their family will become homeless as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and a third feel more negative about their housing situation in the long-term.
Polling we commissioned, carried out by YouGov, reveals the lengths hard-pressed families are going through to keep a roof over their heads during the pandemic. During lockdown:
- 49,000 people resorted to using food banks
- 429,000 people were forced to cut back on food to help pay their rent
- 550,000 people took on debt (e.g. overdrafts, credit cards, payday loans and borrowing money from the bank) to help pay their rent
Within this context, the government’s recent string of policy announcements for the housing sector – a cut to stamp duty and an extension of Permitted Development Rights – are answers to the wrong questions.
That’s why we’re launching a new campaign asking the government to commit to building a better future, by investing in social housing as part of its recovery plan. A new generation of social homes can ensure that everyone has access to a safe and affordable home, as a foundation.
Building stable homes and strong communities
As the government looks to ‘build back better’, it should level up and build a better future by rolling out a housebuilding programme that will provide everyone with a safe home as a foundation, while boosting the economy and saving jobs.
During the worst public health crisis in a century, our homes – and our idea of home – have taken on a whole new meaning. They’ve become even more of a focal point in our lives – for work, education, and health. Now, more than ever, people need safe and secure homes. But the chronic lack of social housing has left so many people enduring the public health crisis while living in insecure, poor quality homes.
So far, the government has offered up a stamp duty cut – but the reality is that 73% of private renting families have no savings at all, due to the costs of living in the private rented sector. This rules them out of home-ownership. A new generation of social homes will create homes that are affordable to local people; providing families with a safe and secure foundation, to build stable homes and strong communities.
A question for the government
In autumn 2020, the government will announce its spending plans to help the country recover and rebuild, in the wake of coronavirus. And, if the government truly wants to ‘build back better’, we must start by asking ourselves what kind of future we want to build?
The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the inequalities and dysfunction within our housing system, and too many people have been left to pay the price. If you live in a deprived area, you are twice as likely to die from coronavirus.
We have a choice
We could rely on our current housing system. One with a dwindling supply of social homes that leaves people with few options and often trapped in the private rented sector, sometimes in sub-standard, overcrowded and insecure homes. Homes that are often unaffordable to local people working in their communities.
Or we could create something different – a future built on stable homes and strong communities.
The prime minister has the chance to build back better by investing in a new generation of social homes. Social house-building could kickstart the economy, help to rebuild communities and the country, as we recover from this crisis – while at the same time delivering the secure homes that people urgently need.
Will you help build a better future?
Let’s build on the lessons we’ve learned. Let’s build a country that works for everyone. Sign up today – let’s build social housing .