A council house boom, or bluff?

The additional £2bn of funding for affordable housing unveiled by the prime minister last week will help deliver 25,000 social rent homes over a period of 5 years - but that really is not a great deal considering the scale of our housing crisis.

The announcement, however, does represent a noticeable shift in Conservative housing policy. No longer is the responsibility for delivering new homes placed solely on the shoulders of private developers - local authorities are now recognised as having a crucial role to play, alongside housing associations.

But extra financing is not enough; councils must be given full control of the new funding so they can be responsive and dynamic regarding communities’ needs. The government should also be more ambitious in the amount of money it provides: the UK is grappling with decades of under-supply - a few low-cost homes here and there won’t have any meaningful impact at all.

Above all, we need to learn from the mistakes of the past. Vast mono-tenure complexes are not the answer to the country’s housing woes.

Poor build quality and management of many council blocks built in the mid-20th century are the reasons we are now spending billions on estate regeneration. They have also resulted in the social and economic isolation of their residents.

Future developments need a mix of different housing types in addition to affordable family homes. If we are to think bigger, private sector involvement will be key: many local authorities no longer have the resources to deliver or manage large housing projects.

There is also the wider issue of construction capacity. Politicians of all stripes fall over each other to promise ever greater numbers of new homes, but big question marks hang over whether the construction industry has the manpower to deliver them.

All in all, Mrs May’s council house-building announcement was more bluff than a boom. But it was a welcome step in the right direction.

Félicie Krikler, director at Assael Architecture

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