And with five million people on waiting lists for social housing, the number of homeless set to rise and a shortage of affordable housing, it does appears that UK housing is in chaos and the Coalition Government is short of ideas.
The Government wants to build more affordable homes with affordable rents, but land prices are prohibitive. The Department for Communities and local government has pledged to spend £4.5billion to deliver 150,000 new affordable homes over the next four years. But is this really the only and most cost effective solution to the crisis?
I approached Grant Shapps and several of his predecessors with a workable formula that would solve the crisis. I suggested that Local Authorities should release land in their ownership to companies with the experience of building appropriate housing.
This land should remain in Local Authority ownership and then be leased at a peppercorn rent to keep costs down and rents affordable. Only with the land cost removed would rents be affordable.
There is also an obvious solution to the shortage of family homes in the UK. Currently, a growing number of retired people live in large under-occupied housing that would make perfect family homes.
If these people were able to sell their homes and rent suitable and affordable retirement housing they would free up much needed family housing. In addition, they would release capital which could be invested and help fund their retirement, which would also help solve the Government’s growing pensions crisis.
But there is also a huge shortage of suitable retirement housing, so why would they move? To overcome this problem, a Government-backed programme is needed to build purpose built retirement homes for rent. Brownfield land in inner cities and towns should be developed which would be perfect for this age group who need to be near shops, medical facilities, libraries, bus routes and local amenities. If this happened, many of them would be tempted to move from their under-occupied homes.
One thing is clear, this problem isn’t going to go away. The waiting lists for housing are increasing and the retired population is increasing year on year with the numbers of people over 55 years old forecast to reach 20 million in the next 25 years. My solution would help the housing needs of both groups of people.
The above formula was discussed and/or presented to, in written form to many persons including Sir George Young, Senior Civil Servants in John Prescott’s Office, seven years ago, and other Minister of Housing, too numerous to mention in the last New Labour administration and more recently Eric Pickles and Grant Shapps.
All of them with the exception of Sir George Young who when he was Minister of Housing, encouraged me to prove the concept works, have failed to address the housing needs of the country. What does it take to convince these people a solution exists, but it needs a responsible approach and a firm understanding of the problems?
Financial institutions are interested in investing in the housing market they just need to be satisfied that the funds they are responsible for are invested wisely. Come on the Coalition, you need to take action to solve this crisis.
Peter Girling is Chairman of Girlings Retirement Rental
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