Building more homes will beat recession

We can build our way out of the recession, according to a new group of leading housing organisations, unions and local authorities.

The 2020 group say that investing billions to build 100,000 new homes over the next two years will “give a desperately needed boost to the economy, save thousands of construction jobs, avoid serious skills shortages and help stimulate long term market stability”.

The group is chaired by Kate Barker, the prime minister’s influential former housing adviser who also sits on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).

Other members of the group include the National Housing Federation (NHF), housing charity Shelter, the Local Government Association (LGA) and the TUC.

Chief executive of the NHF David Orr said: “The group’s proposed house-building programme could kick start the economy, save jobs, and deliver new homes for more than 200,000 people.

“This is a one-off chance for the government to stimulate the economy and help meet housing need in one fell swoop.”

He added: “Without radical action many people in construction will lose their jobs, and up to five million people could find themselves on housing waiting lists by the end of 2010 – this is the government’s chance to help us to make sure that neither of these things happens.”

Chief executive of Shelter Adam Sampson said the package pointed a way forward for the government.

He said: “As house building dries up and thousands of construction workers face the dole queue, building the homes this country needs can not only help the thousands of people living in poor housing, it can also give a real and much needed financial injection to the economy.”

Ms Barker said package meets a “real and urgent” need.

“Social housing waiting lists are rising,” she said.

“Support for housing today offers excellent value in terms of sustaining economic activity, and reduces the risk of a very severe loss of capacity in the housing and related industries.

“There is real concern that the present fall in home building is sowing the seeds of the next boom.”

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the case for more general and council housing was strong.

“When the private sector stops spending, the public sector must fill the gap, otherwise the recession will be deeper and longer than it need be,” he said.

“When such investment can ensure such an important sector as construction retain jobs, capacity and its skills base the case for a significant boost in the Budget becomes
overwhelming.”

LGA chair Margaret Eaton said that even before Britain fell into the economic problems it is suffering, councils were already seeing a need for more social housing.

She said: “Now that the recession is upon the country it appears that many thousands more people will be looking to councils to provide them with a permanent home as they either find it impossible to get on the housing ladder or see their home repossessed.

“With on average every year 90,000 more households joining the ever increasing social housing waiting list over the seven years, experience has taught us that demand will grow even faster.

“Social housing has to be a top priority because the harsh reality is that fewer people are getting on to the housing ladder.”