Comprehensive Spending Review: a chance for truly affordable housing?

The decisions taken by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak in his Comprehensive Spending Review this autumn have the power to reshape our housing system. We mustn’t forgo this opportunity to provide the homes our nation needs, while building our way out of the economic hardship that the country currently faces. That’s why, in responding to the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Nationwide Foundation has made its position clear; we want to see funding for truly affordable homes, in the places they’re needed for the people who need them most.

This submission specifically asks the government to implement the following measures:

Renew the Community Housing Fund for five years, investing £180m in revenue and capital

The government’s Community Housing Fund was an overwhelming success, but it was only open for 18 months. Now, many of these affordable housing projects are in limbo. A five-year renewal of the Community Housing Fund makes sense. It will unlock the growing pipeline of shovel-ready projects. There are almost 11,000 homes waiting to be built, most of which will serve the government’s levelling up agenda. Investment will also help power recovery in local economies, providing a source of contracts for small and medium sized builders. What’s more, research from Capital Economics suggests that over 10 years, each £1 of public support delivers £1.80 of benefit. This rises to £2.70 when health and benefit savings are included.

Invest in a National Housing Conversion Fund

This would make grants available for housing providers to buy existing private rented houses and turn them into new social and affordable homes.

The Affordable Housing Commission, funded by the Nationwide Foundation, has published A National Housing Conversion Fund: Buying Properties to Boost Affordable Housing Supply. This is new research examining the strategic and economic case for a fund for England.  Analysis shows that the fund would deliver 42,500 new social and affordable homes with the majority at social rents. As well as this, the fund would create 9,300 new jobs. The fund would cost £1,255m in grant, but with housing welfare savings and wider benefits, the net cost to government would be £623m.

Increase investment in social and genuinely affordable housing

Social and affordable housing will be key to a post Covid-19 recovery. Besides providing genuinely affordable homes, increasing investment in social housing also support jobs and local growth. It improves the nation’s housing stock, reduces carbon emissions, and combats poverty.

We support the call from the National Housing Federation for an investment of an additional £20bn in grant funding for years 2021 to 2031, to create a £32bn 10-year affordable housing fund. This would be a game-changing, once in a generation investment in affordable homes.

The text above was taken from the Nationwide Foundation’s submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review in September 2020. The Nationwide Foundation is an independent charity with a commitment to increasing the supply of decent, affordable homes until at least 2026.