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2020 has undoubtedly been and continues to be one of the most challenging and difficult years in living memory.

While Covid-19 has wrought heavy blows on our economy and our society, the British people have also shown incredible courage, resilience and bravery in tackling this pandemic and protecting the most vulnerable.

It is important to recognise all that we have achieved together in our battle against this pandemic…

…local government, homelessness charities and central Government coming together and working at an extraordinary pace to house nearly 15,000 vulnerable people, including rough sleepers and the homeless.

We have also protected renters during this pandemic by banning evictions for six months – the longest eviction ban in the UK history.

Earlier this month, we announced an increase of notice periods to six months – an unprecedented measure to help keep people in their homes over the winter…

And we have learnt a lot together during this crisis – not least how absolutely vital our homes and our communities are to our well-being and our happiness.

We cannot hide the fact that for many people living in poor and cramped accommodation, with limited parks or green spaces nearby, this pandemic has been especially difficult.

I believe we all want to see Britain emerging as a stronger, fairer country as we recover from Covid-19.

That is what underpins this Government’s ambition to build back better and deliver the high-quality homes including social housing this country needs.

 

Council Housing

If we are serious about fulfilling our manifesto promise to build a million new homes within the term of this Parliament, then we simply must build private, public, social and mixed housing of all tenures.

As a centre-right Government, we want people to get on the housing ladder but  are unapologetic in saying that we do want to make it easier for councils to build social and affordable housing.

That is why we have abolished the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap and introduced a lower interest rate for new loans issued by the Public Works Loan Board.

I also acknowledge that during these unprecedented times, there are significant financial pressures on local authorities which are holding them back from realising their own housing ambitions.

Therefore, in order to support local house-building, we have extended the deadline for councils to spend Right to Buy receipts by an additional 6 months.

This will enable councils to catch up with their spending plans and deliver replacement social housing.

And it is not just councils who are directly benefitting from our reforms in this area.

Social landlords will also be better off as a result of our longer-term rent deal for 5 years which came into force in April of this year.

This will enable them to charge rents of up to CPI +1% per annum, providing a more stable investment environment to deliver new homes for the future.

 

A New Deal for Social Housing

But we know that we can go much further and much faster in building and improving the next generation of social housing in this country.

And this is not just a numbers game; it is about dramatically increasing the quality of social housing as well as the quantity.

No-one should feel unsafe in the place where they and their loved ones sleep.

And nor should they feel stigmatised, struggle to be heard, or be denied opportunity and dignity because they live in social housing.

The tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 was as much of a wake-up call on these issues as on safety. Gone are the days of the 1940/50s soulless estates.

We have already made changes to improve the lives of residents of social housing by investing in the delivery of new homes and clamping down on the segregation of social housing in new developments.

My department is also working closely with landlords and residents to improve engagement on important safety issues.

We want to build on these achievements through publishing a social housing White Paper later year.

This follows our Green Paper which proposed nothing short of “A new deal for social housing”.

The White Paper  which will led led by Kelly Tolhurst will set out additional measures to truly empower tenants, provide greater redress, better regulation, improve the quality of social housing and support the continued supply of social homes.

It will also include the outcome of the review on social housing regulations so that the regulatory framework remains fit for purpose, reflects changes in the sector, and concentrates focus on delivering the best possible service for residents.

 

Affordable Homes Programme

So, we are fulfilling our promise to improve the quality of social housing but we’re also solving the decades-long problem of demand consistently outstripping supply.

And that has resulted in a terrible chain reaction…

From the number of homeless families ….

…to skyrocketing rents in densely populated towns and cities.

Nowhere is that issue more acute than in London where the knock-on effect of undersupply has been young people and low-income workers spending north of 50% of their salary on rent.

That has to change. Everyone has to do more including London’s Mayor.

Which is why, we launched the new £11.5bn Affordable Homes Programme.

Economic conditions permitting, it will deliver a game-changing 180,000 affordable homes.

This includes the provision of affordable homes and social rent homes.

10% of delivery will also be used to increase the supply of much needed specialist and supported housing too – helping individuals and families who need this kind of housing the most.

Importantly, the programme offers a helping hand to those who might feel that owning a home is out of reach.

Approximately 50% of the homes delivered will be for affordable home ownership.

What’s more, the vast majority of these homes will be available through the new model of Shared Ownership.

It will vastly reduce the minimum initial share you can buy in a property from 25% to 10% while allowing people to buy additional shares in their own home in 1% instalments, with heavily reduced fees.

It will also introduce a 10-year period for new shared owners where the landlord will cover the cost of any repairs and maintenance.

These are measures which give a people a much greater stake – literally – in their own homes and their own communities while helping them build a more equitable and prosperous future.

 

Modern Methods of Construction 

And to address the issue of under-supply, I believe it’s vital that we continue to bring new and innovative ideas to the table in support of delivering more beautifully designed homes at pace.

Modern Methods of construction have completely changed the game in terms of productivity and build speed across a range of sectors in the UK and I want to see the same happen in social housing.

We have already embedded MMC in our housing programmes, such as the Local Authority Accelerated Construction programme and the Home Building Fund.

However, we’re pushing to go even further by setting a minimum target for the use of MMC in the new Affordable Homes Programme while introducing new measures to help providers build a pipeline of consistent supply.

We’re already seeing some great examples of local authorities harnessing the benefits of MMC, including Barnet Homes – and that is not a typo don’t worry – I do mean Barnet Homes in North London – which has submitted plans for 47 affordable homes in Edgware’s Broadfields Estate.

These are homes which can be built quickly, while using heat recovery for heating, instead of gas-central heating, making them highly sustainable.

Their approach aims to bring a greater standardisation of components to reach economies of scale.

And at a national level, we have seen that exact same method used in the Department for Education’s Seismic Programme to reduce the build cost for a new school by 25%.

I want to see this same level of innovation employed by local authorities and developers across the country.

It is through embracing MMC and taking advantage of new and emerging technologies that housing associations and councils will be able to deliver a new generation of sustainable and affordable homes. Such as I saw at Jaywick Sands in Essex with Giles Watling earlier this summer.

 

Conclusion

The supply of good quality, affordable housing lies at the very heart of this Government’s moral mission to unite and level up the country as we recover from the worst effects of Covid-19.

It is incumbent upon all of us to recognise that where we go to sleep at night has a very real and lasting effect on so many aspects of our lives.

It affects where children go to school, the air that we all breathe, where we relax and exercise and how long it takes us to commute to work.

The reforms and wider policies we’re implementing are designed to break that inequality cycle for good through:

…dramatically ramping up the supply of housing including social housing…

… improving the quality of social housing…

…resetting the relationship between social tenants and their landlords.

… and implementing an Affordable Homes Programme which allows people to use their social housing as a springboard to opportunity and future prosperity.  As Patrick McLoughlin’s story teaches us.

The centre-right, one nation Governments of this country have a track record on social housing to be proud of…

From the Housing Acts of the post-war Churchill and Macmillan Governments which raised subsidies to councils for publicly funded building…

…right through to the Governments of the present day where we have increased the overall social housing stock by over 100,000 after it had fallen by 420,000 between 1997 and 2010.

Let us now look to the future with optimism and determination, mindful that these difficult times have made us rethink, in so many ways, how we live and how we want to live.

We have an opportunity now to not just build back but to build back in smarter and more effective ways…

…to deliver the right homes in the right places to those who need them the most…

…to build back better so that every single person in this country, no matter where they’re from, what they do, or how much money they earn, lives in a house which is decent, safe and secure – a house which they’re proud to call home.

 

Thank you

 

The keynote speech was live-streamed and followed by a Q&A session. The recording of the speech will be posted shortly.

The Rt Hon Christopher Pincher is the Minister of State for Housing.