Consultation response: First Homes

By: Tarun Bhakta  Published: May 2020


Summary

This response outlines Shelter's concerns with the proposals made in the First Homes consultation. 6394 people have signed up to Shelter's response, calling on the government to ensure that the First Homes policy does not become an attack on the social housing communities desperately need.

For generations, social housing played a vital role in meeting the housing needs of ordinary people, giving millions the quality and dignity of life that insecure and unaffordable private renting could not. A steep decline in social housebuilding has contributed to an increase in homelessness and a huge increase in private renting as more and more cannot afford to buy a home. 

The government's consultation proposals for the First Homes would threaten the supply of genuinely affordable social rent homes even further. 

Shelter do not support the proposed mechanisms for delivering First Homes.

  • Mandating that large, fixed proportions developer contributions must be First Homes would impact the provision of more affordable tenures, in particular social rent, undermining the ability of local authorities to reduce and prevent homelessness or meet the broader housing needs of low-income households in their communities.
  • In displacing genuinely affordable social rent homes, delivering First Homes in the way proposed would benefit more affluent households to the disbenefit of those already unable to access a secure and affordable home.
  • The suggested approach to the delivery of First Homes would also build inflexibility into the planning system, curbing local authorities’ abilities to respond to the make-up housing need and demand in their local areas.

The delivery of sub-market housing should be informed by detailed assessments of local housing need. Local authorities should be required and supported to:

  • Develop robust assessments of local housing need, which include a breakdown of the types and tenures of homes needed, including for social rent housing.
  • Develop ‘affordable housing’ and other policies which maximise the extent to which new supply is targeted at locally identified need.

Local authorities, registered providers and market actors should be supported and incentivised to deliver more sub-market housing of all types, with an urgent need to prioritise social rent.

  • The Land Compensation Act 1961 should be reformed to enable land, right priced for significantly higher proportions of genuinely affordable housing, to enter the market.
  • Planning reforms should strengthen and increase the abilities of local authorities to target new supply at locally identified housing need and unmet demand for ‘affordable housing’.

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