Never again, said the civil servants running the programme. But the truth is that the reliance of social housing on cross-subsidy has grown since, not diminished
It’s no surprise the political debate around the construction of social housing (such as it is) is basic knockabout stuff. Labour criticises the government for presiding over a catastrophic fall in affordable home construction in the first years of the parliament and a huge increase in rents for those least able to pay (both true). The government counters that it is on track to build more homes than originally expected, while getting greater value for the public purse (also both true).
What’s undeniable is that cuts in grant mean building affordable homes is now, more than ever, a marginal activity, only made viable in many areas by huge cross-subsidy from private sale. When the crunch hit in 2008, the government’s reliance on cross-subsidy via the section 106 system meant the affordable homes programme was hit hard and required a £1.4bn cash injection to save it. Never again, said the civil servants running the programme. But the truth is that the reliance on cross-subsidy has grown since, not diminished. Yet another area where the lessons of the financial crash don’t seem to have been learned.
Joey Gardiner, assistant editor