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Social Housing Speed Read – Public Accounts Committee report

We take a look at the recently published Public Accounts Committee report Housing: State of the Nation, examining the Government's current housing policy.

The Committee does not hold back in highlighting the criticisms and failings of the Government.

What does the report say?

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) aspired to deliver one million new homes over the five years of this Parliament.

The Public Accounts Committee states in its report that the DCLG acknowledge it will not come close to meeting the actual level of housing needed and as a result “fundamental flaws” in the housing market (namely problems of affordability and homeless) are likely to persist for years to come.

The report states that the DCLG recognises the scale of the gap between supply and demand of housing, but “its ambitions do not even come close to addressing it”.

This is evidenced by the fact that the DCLG acknowledges that between 225,000 and 275,000 new homes are needed each year, however it only aims to build an average of 200,000.

The report also highlights that there is a lack of information, particularly on the impact of the estimated £21 billion each year the Government spends on housing benefit.

The committee wants the Government to get more out of housing benefit. It states that the Government does not know what contribution this benefit makes to the supply of new housing and considers that “too often” this money is used to “subsidise landlords in the private rented sector to provide homes below a decent standard”.


The Committee also considers the Government has “not been transparent enough” about its housing targets, including the million homes policy.

It criticises the Government for not publicly announcing that its ambition for one million new homes was actually to be achieved in nearly six years, not five and then for reversing this back to five years.

It further criticised the metric used to measure progress for being “backward-looking” as the figure was for net additions in the previous year, highlighting that this does not enable Parliament or the public to measure whether the department is actually on track.


The report made several recommendations, the key ones being that the Government must:

  • publish a housing gap figure each year and make clear the difference between housing need and supply
  • estimate the number of homes councils can build up to 2020 within six months
  • make it clear how its programmes contribute to the one million homes target and clearly identify those that are additional to what the market would have delivered anyway
  • look at ways to use housing benefit in a more innovative way to increase house building
  • publish research on how many private rented sector homes it supports with housing benefit.

The report acknowledges the proposals for accelerating housebuilding in the recently published White Paper published by the DCLG and states that it looks forward to “monitoring the development of its programmes”, as are many in the housing sector.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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