Yesterday my office received a copy of a presentation that the Homes & Communities Agency in London made on the future supply of affordable housing.
The presentation contains a graph which shows the boost to new affordable homes coming from Labour’s National Affordable Housing Programme: with new affordable home starts peaking at almost 16,000 in 2009-10 (despite the recession) with those homes due for completion in 2011-12.
Once those homes are built the figures collapse; new starts, that is to say: new building projects for affordable homes are projected to fall in London to well below 2,000 in the next twelve months, and then fall to zero. With building projects taking about 18-24 months we then see the supply of new affordable homes in London fall to zero by 2014/15.
For the next couple of years, the Tory-led government and – until the next London Mayoral election – Boris Johnson, will be able to reap the rewards of Labour’s investment in an affordable housing building programme. In London, Boris will be able to point, with some enthusiasm, to more than 14,000 new affordable homes which will be built in 2011-12 and claim them as an achievement of his mayoralty whilst Grant Shapps can cut ribbons and hand over keys to families moving in and try and portray the completion of Labour’s building programme as a Tory success.
What we won’t see as much of is the traditional photo taken on new building sites, shovels in hand. At first, this won’t produce much comment – new homes will be being completed, families will be moving in. Two years down the line however, and it’ll all become too clear what’s happened. By then, someone else might be in City Hall and they’ll have to pick up the pieces.
The Tory government has told us to keep faith – to believe them when they say they have a plan to fill the gap left by their slashing of government funding for new affordable homes – and this week we were given some details.
Where there was once government funding from the Treasury to subsidise and fund the building of homes, now we will see rents rise for almost every new housing association tenant to up to 80% of market rent.
There will be no link to housing benefit caps. As a consequence, in London rents may treble or more as a consequence; only a Tory government could dare call rent at those levels ‘affordable’.
There’s no indication as to how this policy will work. There are no projections for how many housing associations will put rents up by this much, how much money this will raise and how many new homes will then be built but plenty of well established doubts from experts across the housing sector.
What we do know is that new projects need to start now and start on a scale to match Labour’s building programme to avoid a genuine housing crisis by the end of the parliament, passing the buck to housing associations and the cost to tenants simply isn’t good enough.
Alison Seabeck is the shadow housing minister