A commission of housing professionals led by Lord Best has called on the government to commit to a new £1.3bn national housing conversion fund for England to enable social landlords to buy unused, unfinished or badly managed homes.
Lord Best: “We believe the chancellor has a great opportunity to stimulate the economy, boost jobs and tackle the housing crisis by backing plans for a national housing conversion fund” (picture: Parliament TV)
The Affordable Housing Commission, which is made up of senior representatives from across the sector, said this monetary boost would create 42,500 new affordable homes and 9,300 new jobs, helping struggling tenants and driving the economic recovery.
The commission’s latest report has warned of a housing market downturn and the potential damage it will have on tenants, homeowners and private landlords. A conversion fund – to enable social landlords and community-led housing groups to buy private rented housing as well as homes for sale on stalled sites – could mitigate the anticipated slump in prices and activity, it said.
Such an approach has been used in past recessions, including in the early 1990s through the Conservative government’s housing market package, it suggested.
The commission argued that this would provide a cost-effective way to help tenants and provide social housing. It also claimed buying up distressed private properties, especially in low-value areas, could improve housing conditions and contribute to the government’s ambitions to level up the economy and reduce carbon emissions.
Converting private properties to social housing could provide a floor in some markets, it said, and help rebalance the housing system. Funding would be made contingent on investing in a property to raise standards, which would also generate local jobs.
Making around £1.3bn in funding available would generate savings elsewhere, meaning the government’s net contribution would be £623m, the commission concluded, and it calculated that the net economic benefits over 30 years would total almost £1.4bn.
Lord Best, chair of the Affordable Housing Commission, said: “We believe the chancellor has a great opportunity to stimulate the economy, boost jobs and tackle the housing crisis by backing plans for a national housing conversion fund.
“This would bring empty and rundown properties back to life, stimulate activity on stalled sites and assist landlords exiting the market, while addressing the acute shortage of homes at truly affordable rents.”