Right to Buy scheme must be scrapped to ease UK social housing crisis – JLL


Building enough homes to clear England’s vast social housing waiting list will cost £205bn, according to analysis by JLL.

A new report from JLL calls on politicians of all parties to acknowledge the scale of the challenge facing England’s housing market, set realistic and achievable housebuilding targets amidst the current shortages and abolish the Right to Buy.

According to the latest government figures, there are currently 1.287 million households on social waiting lists in England, with the number rising by 161,000 (14%) over the last five years. Meanwhile, councils are being forced to sell off existing social homes via Right to Buy, through which 10,000 homes were moved from the social to private market in 2023 alone. These homes are not being replaced.

To stop of the flow of homes moving from the social sector to the private market, JLL is calling for the end of Right to Buy.

JLL has estimated that building enough homes to meet current demand on waiting lists would cost approximately £205bn. This figure assumes that local or national government could provide land at zero cost, with a conservative average build cost of £160,000.

The current government has committed to building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, but has failed to meet this target so far. The Labour Party has promised a similar volume of new homes if it comes to power, with 1.5m new homes over five years.

But JLL analysis finds that there is due to be a shortfall of 570,000 homes between 2024 and 2028, when compared to the 300,000 homes a year target.

Marcus Dixon, UK head of living and residential research at JLL, said: “Pressure on social housing waiting lists in England has been building for some time and we have reached crisis point.

“Overall development has been slow in the last few years and has fallen short of targets, heaping more pressure on waiting lists.

“As a first step to easing the pressure on waiting lists, the next government needs to scrap Right to Buy, which has seen thousands of social homes being removed every year. Additionally, political parties need to be honest about the barriers preventing large scale housebuilding and set realistic development targets.

“Without doing so, voters will be trapped in a cycle of disappointment when the government of the day fails to deliver on its promises.”

JLL’s report comes at a time when local authorities are spending vast sums on housing families in temporary accommodation while they wait to be offered social housing. According to the Local Government Association (LGA), councils spent £1.74bn on this service in 2022/23, with the number of households in temporary accommodation rising 89% to 104,000 households in the last decade.

The pressure on housing waiting lists is particularly acute in London, where waiting lists are equivalent to 9.5% of all households. But the picture is also challenging in the North East (6.5%), North West (6.5%) and Yorkshire and The Humber (6.4%), compared to the national average (5.5%).

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