Took the train down to Parliament today to give evidence to the House of Commons Council Housing Group Inquiry into the Housing and Regeneration Bill. The event was chaired by Austin Mitchell MP and a significant number of other MPs participated over the course of the day, including Gerald Kaufmann.
I gave my evidence towards the end of the day, but from what I heard it seemed that there was unanimous disappointment that the current Housing and Regeneration Bill is a missed opportunity to tackle the current affordable housing crisis.
In APSEs view the best way of tackling the current and future shortages would be by ensuring that local authorities are given the key strategic and operational role in delivering supply. For this to occur there would need to be a neutrality in terms of funding for all authorities whether they transferred their stock, deliver it through an ALMO or retain it directly. This would allow authorities to manage, maintain and become involved in the long term building and supply of social housing.
If the 19b backlog of repairs in the late nineties was the overarching policy driver for social housing policy at the time then now it is the lack of affordable housing that takes priority. I pushed the following ideas for amendments to the Bill:
1 The creation of an investment allowance built into the national hra formula which enables local authorities to support new build, acquire new social housing and refurbish long term void properties.
2 Arrangements to be put in place that would permit local authorities to build a minimum of 10% themselves to contribute to area based regeneration and build construction skill through training opportunities.
3 A ratio created for partial write off of historic debt where local authorities and partners invest in new build schemes.
4 A review of Right to Buy for new build, acquired social housing and long term void properties.
I finished my evidence by saying that for those of us who have been involved in this debate over the last ten years I hope we achieve something worthwhile and lasting from the Housing and Regeneration Bill, if we don't it could be the end for the vast majority of local authority directly supplied housing. I think that would be hugely detrimental to society and therefore support a strong role for local authorities, not only in housing strategy, but in maintenance, management and new build.