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Shelter’s report recommends a political consensus on social housing. Perhaps we could just agree to adopt it and its recommendations, and then we can all go home. As someone brought up on a council estate, and who was horrified by the right-to-buy policy in the 1980s, with the loss of 3 million homes from the social housing stock, any political consensus cannot come soon enough. I was part of the generations for whom, as Shelter describes,
“social housing played a vital role in meeting the housing needs of ordinary people”.
It was not an ambulance service. The aim of the report is to recapture this purpose. The explosion in the private rented sector has led to seemingly contradictory outcomes: an increase in housing benefit costs and an increase in homelessness. Capital Economics has stated:
“Over the past decade this rising proportion of housing benefit caseloads in the private rented sector has cost nearly £14 billion in additional benefits and rental payments in real terms”.
Turning to private renting, which has doubled since 1997 and comprises 20% of all households in England, more than a quarter of such properties fail to meet basic standards. The Minister will be aware of the selective licensing scheme, under which all privately rented properties must be licensed with the local authority. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Chartered Institute of Housing have published a joint report entitled A Licence to Rent, looking into the effectiveness of such schemes. It finds that in areas with selective licensing,
“high numbers of serious hazards and defects”,
are “being identified and addressed” as a result of property inspections. I understand that the Government are conducting a review of selective licensing, and I hope the Minister will be able to tell us how that is progressing and whether the Government will consider the recommendations of the two chartered institutes’ report, including setting up a national landlord register in England.
Finally, the National Housing Federation and Crisis have produced a report that shows that our housing backlog has reached 4 million. They have called on the Government to make ambitious, comprehensive reforms to the land market, including prioritising the sale of public land for social housing. What plans do the Government have to tackle the land market issue?