Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Tory "First Homes Proposal" will further decimate affordable housing

The UK Government’s First Homes Scheme will lead to fewer social and affordable housing.

Check out UNISON Housing Association branch motion to our National Delegate Conference.

"Conference notes the UK government consultation which opened on the 7th February 2020 over the new ‘First Homes’ housing policy. This proposal seeks to divert section 106 funds away from the provision of affordable homes and instead use it to offer discounts on new properties for purchase in England.

Conference notes that opposition to these proposals and its effects on building genuinely affordable and social rental homes has already been expressed by a wide cross-section of organisations including the Chartered Institute for Housing, National Housing Federation, Shelter and the Local Government Association.

Conference is concerned that the impact of these proposals would be to reduce the numbers of low cost social and affordable rental properties provided by housing associations and local authorities.

Conference is also concerned that like the Help to Buy scheme, the proposed policy will inflate sale prices at the expense of increasing supply. It will also likely help those on very high incomes who are not in housing need. According to the National Audit Office, 65,000 Help to Buy buyers, 31% of buyers, did not need the help of the scheme to get onto the housing ladder.

Furthermore, these proposals would hand over decision-making powers on the development of affordable homes to large housebuilding corporations, while restricting the ability of Local Authorities to use their planning policies to insist on genuinely affordable and social rented homes. We also believe that there are deep flaws in the implementation and legal enforcement of these proposals that could be exploited by large housebuilding corporations.

Conference believes that the ‘First Homes’ policy will damage the social housing sector and further endanger jobs, pay and conditions within the sector. Section 106 monies, though far from the ideal arrangement, are currently the predominant way to fund new affordable housing since the government slashed grants for social housing in 2010. This policy will see this money going to housebuilders and not to providers of affordable housing such as Housing Associations and Local Authorities.

Conference therefore calls on the NEC to:

• Add our voice to the wide range of those opposing these plans as they currently stand, highlighting the threat the proposals pose to ensuring our Housing Associations and Local Authorities can continue to expand the provision of affordable homes in the country.

• Work with Labour Link to raise this issue with MPs and Councillors to ensure their voices are also used to stop this damaging policy whether in the consultation or if a bill is presented to parliament.

• Continue our commitment to support real radical changes within this sector which would see funding for the construction of a new generation of social housing fit to meet the needs of the whole country; and promote UNISON’s Housing Manifesto: “Safe, decent and affordable homes for all”.

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