The Affordable Housing Commission, organised by the Smith Institute, funded by the Nationwide Foundation and chaired by Lord Richard Best, has issued a call for evidence as it gets under way.
The Commission has a wide brief to look at the causes and effects of the affordability crisis and to come up with some workable solutions. The call for evidence identifies four groups that are facing affordability issues which the Commission’s work will focus on. These are
- ‘Struggling renters’: who spend more than a third of their income on rented accommodation (either private or social renting)
- ‘Frustrated homeowners’: who would be unable to buy a property without spending over a third of their income on housing costs
- ‘Those reliant on state support’: who rely on Housing Benefit/the housing component within Universal Credit, but receive inadequate support, taking many below the poverty line.
- ‘Those who face affordability issues in older age’: those whose incomes drop suddenly in retirement but rents remain the same and older owners in unsatisfactory homes who cannot afford to upgrade or acquire somewhere suitable.
Research over the coming months will seek to understand the affordability challenge and work towards a new affordable housing offer. In summary the questions they want to address include: What does affordability mean in different areas of the country? How does it link to the welfare system? Why has housing become unaffordable and what are its effects? What policies have been put in place and have they been working? How can supply ne increased and what are the roles of the tax system, government funding, housing providers, and the planning system? What other areas of policy need to change – eg infrastructure, institutions, governance, public attitudes?
The call for evidence is accompanied by conclusions from a series of Focus Groups undertaken for the Commission, from which a range of conclusions were drawn, including:
- There was agreement that there is an affordability crisis, but this was often seen to be about first time buyers not renters.
- Saving for a deposit is a major barrier, but mortgage payments ae seen as being lower than rent in the longer term.
- People are open to ‘radical solutions’ but home owners and first time buyers see themselves as struggling therefore have little tolerance for targeting assistance to groups on the lowest incomes apart from people with young children.
- People identified the main causes of the affordability crisis as house prices increasing ahead of wages, high deposits, punitively high rents charged by landlords. People did not identify lack of new housing as an important factor.
- 25-33% of household income was seen as ‘affordable’, housing costs should never be more than half.
- Private renting ‘is broken’ and people will make big trade offs to ‘get onto the ladder’.
The Commission is made up of 15 members from the housing world. In addition to Lord Best, they include: Claire Ainsley of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Sinead Butters from Aspire Housing, Ian Fletcher of the British Property Federation, Prof Kenneth Gibb of Glasgow University, Robert Grundy of Savills, Lindsay Judge of the Resolution Foundation, Geeta Nanda of Metropolitan Thames Valley, Martin Newman of Giroscope, Jenny Osbourne of TPAS, John Slaughter of the Home Builders Federation, Dan Wilson Craw from Generation Rent, Kate Henderson from National Housing Federation, Jo Negrini from LB Croydon, Gavin Smart from Chartered Institute of Housing.
The Commission’s website has more information on the research priorities, the focus group findings and the Commissioners. People will have their own views about the conclusions of the focus groups, whether the Commission has the right balance of people and is on the right track, but the call for evidence provides a clear opportunity to make submissions on these and related issues.
Submissions should be made to firstname.lastname@example.org by 4th April, 2019.