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Going to Scale: How a National Housing Fund Can Unlock Britain’s House Building Capacity

Publication Details

Launched on November 17th, Going to Scale sets out how government can meet Britain’s housing challenge and deliver the homes that are desperately needed around the country. It proposes a long-term National Housing Fund to deliver up to 75,000 homes a year and get the housing market work for the many.

The Government has set a target to build one million homes by 2020. But over the last 35 years, we have averaged around 150,000 homes a year. As housing delivery continues to fall short, intergenerational inequality has ballooned as a gap has formed between ‘generation rent’ and ‘generation own’. Social housing waiting lists have lengthened dramatically. And the foundational need of millions of people to have a secure and comfortable place to call home have been undermined in a way not seen in the postwar era.

Going to Scale proposes the creation of a major new National Housing Fund, backed by government, to overcome the fundamental problems of number, pace and scale. Acting as a new guaranteed buyer in the market, the Fund would deliver at least 40,000 and up to 75,000 new homes across England. ResPublica’s report shows how this fully returnable £100 billion investment over 10 years would act as a guaranteed buyer to unleash the potential of housing associations and SME developers to build the homes we need. Building up housebuilding capacity in this way would ensure the market delivered the homes we need over the long-term.

Welcoming the report, Sir Michael Lyons, the non-executive chairman of the English Cities Fund and author of the Lyons Housing Review, said: “ResPublica’s latest report on housing supply adds its influential voice to those calling for a much more ambitious approach to building homes for the future. It rightly concludes that current efforts, largely focused on the Volume House Builders and immediate owner occupation, will not be enough to tackle the escalating mismatch between a growing population and the homes available to meet both need and aspiration.

“It is on the money in focusing on the need for new initiatives of scale, capable of securing a step change in house building. Its suggestion, from authors Callan and Blond, for a National Housing Fund backed by Government and capable of raising and investing £10billion a year through the larger Housing Associations (and why not the more go ahead local authorities too?) to build 40,000 extra homes pa is an example of the big thinking we now need.

“Our report of 2 years ago stressed the need for ambitious initiatives engaging all players in the challenge of boosting housing supply on a sustainable basis and thereby rebuilding the capacity of this vital industry. ResPublica has responded to that challenge with a practical idea capable of making a big contribution.”

Report-co-author and director of ResPublica, Phillip Blond, said: “The idea of giving people help to buy homes can only work to its full potential if there is a ready supply of properties on the market.

“For too many years, successive Governments have failed to build enough homes, or enable enough homes to be built. This must change if we are going to address a problem which is creating a divide in society between those who can afford to enter the property market and those who are priced out – the haves and have nots.

“Our National Housing Fund offers the British Government a way to finally build the homes it acknowledges it needs. Through the notion of a guaranteed buyer – we reinvent the only formula that has ever enabled the state to build at scale. Crucially we will dramatically expand the capacity of two relatively dormant sectors, the SME building market and Housing Associations such that they too can build at scale and  open up the market for the millions who need it to work for them.”

Clive Betts, Labour MP and Chairman of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, said: “Housing is one of the top challenges we face as a country. We cannot continue with record high rents, increasing homelessness and a generation locked out of home ownership – and we need to ask serious questions about how we can deliver homes at the scale we need.

“As the Communities and Local Government Committee undertakes our inquiry into this key issue, I strongly welcome ResPublica’s vital and innovate new report that sets out fresh thinking on housing in Britain, and I urge the government to pay heed to its important proposals”

Stephen Hammond, Conservative MP and a member of the Treasury Select Committee, a keynote speaker at the launch of ResPublica’s report, said: “The UK has had a housing shortage of all types of tenure stretching back decades. We have never built the number we need to provide homes for our citizens. Depressingly at the current rate of build the prospect for many millennialists of owning their own home is remote.

“If we are to meet our political aspiration to build more homes, we need a new solution. The Coalition and the Conservative Governments have provided some interesting initiatives on the demand side which have been helpful but not transformative. This new research and policy provides that supply side change. If the government is the  guaranteed buyer, through using Housing Associations, not only will there be a boost to GDP and create new jobs but there is the potential to build 40,000 extra homes per year. I hope that this idea from ResPublica will be at the forefront of policy makers’ minds as the wrestle with the problem of providing homes for modern Britain to live in.”

Toby Lloyd, Head of housing development at Shelter, said: “This report from ResPublica adds yet another voice to all those calling on the government to get a grip on our housing shortage by investing in genuinely affordable homes to rent or buy.

“As the report explains, we cannot expect a handful of big developers to build all the homes we need. We must lift the barriers blocking our smaller builders and allow them to compete with other housebuilders on who will build the best homes for the community, not on who can pay the most for land.

“The government has the chance to turn things around, and we hope to see some bold commitments in next week’s Autumn Statement to build homes that people on lower incomes can actually afford.”

For JLL’s economic analysis which fed into this report, see here.

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  • Edward Douglas

    Policy and Projects Manager

    Edward manages ResPublica’s housing programme. He has written extensively on housing, planning and regeneration. He also works on employment, skills, enterprise and finance policy. He is the author of Great Estates on regeneration, and co-author of Going to Scale on...

    Edward Douglas
  • Phillip Blond

    Director

    Phillip is an internationally recognised political thinker and social and economic commentator. He bridges the gap between politics and practice, offering strategic consultation and policy formation to governments, businesses and organisations across the world. He founded ResPublica in 2009 and...

    Phillip Blond
  • Philip Callan

    Managing Director, PCA

    Philip Callan is the Managing Director of PCA: following roles in the chemical industry and distribution Philip held senior roles in the health service, the London fire brigade and the Housing Corporation before founding PCA in 1988. He has led...