Coalition slammed for social housing failure

Building targets missed by a mile

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New figures have revealed that the coalition has failed to reach any of its building targets in the last five years, with four homes in the social housing sector sold off for every new one built.

In 2011, the government relaunched its right-to-buy scheme, promising that social housing stock wouldn't be lost.

"For the first time, every additional home that is sold will be replaced by a new affordable home on a one-for-one basis," promised the then housing minister Grant Schapps.

"The new homes for affordable rent will help get the nation building again, and help councils meet housing need."

But yesterday, Labour MP for Greenwich and Woolwich Nick Raynsford accused the government of breaking its promises. Figures published last week by the UK Housing Review show that construction started on only 3,961 new council homes last year, a quarter as many as were sold off.

"In the last year of the last government, there were 39,000 social rented homes started," he told Communities Minister Stephen Williams.

"Last year there were 3,961. Those are the figures. Will you now own up and apologise for that appalling record?"

But Williams refused to do so.

"I won't apologise at all," he said. "Actually I'm quite proud of the record of this coalition government for having a reinvigorated affordable homes programme that in between 2011 and the end of this month will have delivered 170,000 extra affordable homes."

However, there's affordable and there's affordable. With rents generally set at 80% of the local going rate, prices can still be sky-high in many areas. And other efforts to ease the housing crisis - such as David Cameron's recent pledge to build 200,000 discounted 'starter homes' for first-time buyers - are being seen as an inadequate distraction.

Some councils are worse offenders than others - indeed, according to homeless charity Shelter, 13 London boroughs have failed to replace any of their 3,000 sold-off properties at all.

More than 2,000 people are today expected to attend a rally in Westminster in an attempt to push affordable housing up the election agenda. Protesters are demanding that parties set out a coherent long-term plan for easing the housing crisis.

"Social housing is critical if we are going to solve the housing crisis – there are always going to be people who can't afford to buy and we must provide decent, affordable homes for them too," says Gavin Smart, interim chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Housing.

"We can solve the housing crisis in a generation – but we are going to need a long-term commitment from all of our political parties. We need investment in all tenures (ownership, shared ownership, private and social rent) if we are going to make housing more affordable for all."

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