4.5M On Housing Waiting List Could Rise To 5.75M If Promised Spending Is Cut

(Guardian) – THE GOVERNMENT will struggle to build even half of its target of a million affordable homes by 2020 if the housing budget is not exempted from public spending cuts, a housing campaign group says.

If the cuts to the house-building budget suggested by November’s pre-­budget report go ahead, the number of affordable homes built by 2020 will be 444,000, says the National Housing Federation.

The NHF is calling on Gordon Brown to make the house-building budget “untouchable” and give it the same status as hospitals, schooling and policing, areas the government said in November they would ring-fence while they trimmed back in other areas.

In a recent interview the housing minister, John Healey, refused to rule out cuts.

Housing is a pressing political issue with 4.5 million people on waiting lists for affordable housing, and the issue is seen as a driving factor in the alienation of those on lower incomes – exacerbated during the economic downturn – and as a recruiting ground for far-right parties.

In 2007 Brown pledged to meet the demand by building 3m houses by 2020 of which a million would be affordable, but at the moment the NHF predicts that only 162,000 of that million-mark target will have been built by 2011. If the budget is further hacked back, the number of new affordable homes will fall by 556,000 and the government could take a further 18 years to build the million.

The effect could be a further 1.25 million people joining the waiting lists.

The NHF has used the figure provided by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which has estimated cuts of 17.98% for unprotected government departments.

Alongside diminished resources for house building, cuts of 17.98% over the next 10 years will also lead to 278,000 jobs and apprenticeships in the construction industry either being lost or not created.

The near-18% budget cut becomes proportionally a much bigger reduction in house building because the sector is resigned to losing billions of pounds worth of extra public investment over the next decade; funds anticipated by the government when it set out its 2020 housing targets.

Within the government’s targets, about 280,000 homes should be built over the next three government-spending periods, but if the 17.98% budget cut is applied to housing only 99,000 affordable homes will be built between 2011/12 to 2013/14, and if the same cut is applied between 2014/15 to 2016/17 only 91,000 would be built. If maintained at the new low level, between 2017/18 to 2019/20 only 93,000 would be delivered.

The NHF warned that the poorest communities would be the hardest hit by the proposed cuts to housing, as bad living conditions were closely linked with poor health and educational attainment and higher crime rates.

The group’s chief executive, David Orr, said: “Ministers should give funding for the house-building programme the same untouchable status as health, education and policing – and protect it from the coming savage cuts.”

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