Buy the supply – creating new social housing from existing homes

My housing committee has written to the Mayor asking for more action to buy existing homes to boost social housing supply.

In the letter, written as Chair of the Assembly housing committee, I set out how buildings can be utilised to provide more housing for Londoners, through methods such as buying back former council homes and buying on the open market.

Some councils are already doing this, and if each local authority in London purchased just 200-250 homes a year through these alternative, non-construction methods of creating social housing, it would make a significant difference with 6,000-8,000 extra social rented homes across London.

To put this into context, the 2021 Affordable Housing Monitor showed that in 2020-21 there were 6,162 new homes started at social or London Affordable Rent, so a programme like this could have a highly significant impact.

Since August 2021, the Mayor has been providing some funding for councils to buy homes in this way. This follows proposals in the Green Group’s 2021 budget amendment to use unspent and unallocated government housing grant to buy homes on the market for key workers.

Although newly-built social housing is also a priority, existing homes and programmes to ‘buy the supply’ definitely need to be part of the equation.

Our recommendations to the Mayor include that he should:

  • Assess the different models of expanding social housing to determine the potential contribution each could make to expanding supply.
  • Work towards the next housing funding bid to Government to include an investigation into the potential costs and value for money of non-construction methods.
  • Review the application of current conditions for acquisition in capital funding guidance to examine whether there could be more flexibility applied to standards, particularly when good quality former council homes are being brought back into social housing.

London desperately needs more affordable homes and I am really excited at the potential of alternative or non-construction methods in increasing the affordable housing stock.

We are talking 6-8,000 more affordable homes to add to the mix, and they don’t have to be built from scratch because they already exist. These alternative methods could certainly be utilised more by the Mayor and local councils to help build the numbers of affordable homes London needs.

Progress is being made right across London, but the Mayor needs to actively investigate and pursue these different methods. At the moment, they don’t feature within his Housing Strategy.

If he is ever to reach the targets that he has set, overlooking these alternative ways will be to the detriment of Londoners, who deserve an affordable home to live in.

Read the full letter on the Assembly website.