The View From: housing
Professor Paddy Gray
Past President of the Chartered Institute of Housing and Professor of Housing at the University of Ulster
Social housing policy is near the top of the political agenda. Do you welcome that?
Absolutely! There is a major shortage of social housing. Given the state of the economy, building more social housing would have a major impact on jobs and housing at a time of high social housing waiting lists.
How will the benefit reforms affect social housing providers?
Most providers borrow from the private sector to build and maintain housing. They depend on rents. In the past those rents were paid direct to landlords. Now it is proposed to pay housing benefit to tenants, who will pay the landlord. This will lead to difficulty for providers with lenders, because there will be less certainty of income. Then there is the impact on tenants, many of who will have to relocate to smaller homes. In many places those homes are not there. In Northern Ireland, for example, most of our housing stock is large, so the homes are not there for people to downsize.
Is housing benefit providing an excessive subsidy to private sector landlords?
The private sector housing benefit bill is escalating, but the private sector has grown over the last decade. Rent is not the only subsidy for social housing: there are also subsidies on building and management. The private sector is taking the risk on building.
Do you welcome the interest from institutional investors in the sector?
It would help raise standards in the private sector and create welcome investment. Housing associations are moving more into the private sector, with some buying private providers. The line is blurring between private and social housing – it’s now the rented sector.
What do you do in your quiet time to not think about housing policy?
I think about housing policy all the time! I was tweeting this morning at 5 am.
Total number new homes built in England 2011: 109,020
Total number new homes built in England 1968: 362,540
Number of new housing association homes built in England 2011: 24,530 (1 in 4)
Number of new housing association homes built in England 1968: 5,540 (1 in 65)