London Councils has today called on the government to deliver a boost of historic proportions to local authorities’ ability to build new homes.
The umbrella group issued the plea precisely 100 years after the Addison Act was signed into law on 31 July 1919, which gave local authorities significant new duties and funding for council housing.
London faces a chronic shortage of social housing and the most severe homelessness crisis in the country, with around 55,000 London households living in temporary accommodation and the capital accounting for almost 70% of England’s homelessness total. A quarter of a million Londoners are on housing registers with waiting times of up to 25 years.
Boroughs are committed to building new council housing but face continuing constraints on their ability to deliver homes at significant scale. London Councils wants the government to end restrictions on use of Right to Buy receipts and to provide clarity over long-term social rent levels, arguing that these measures will make council housebuilding much more financially viable.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Housing & Planning, said:
“As we mark 100 years since the passing of the Addison Act, it’s time to turbocharge council housebuilding through a new Addison alliance between central and local government.
“We want to work with the government to address restrictions on our ability to build. Through just a few key policy changes, the government could have a massive impact. For example, ending the unfair rules around the use of Right to Buy receipts would mean all money raised from council house sales in London could go back into building replacement homes.
“This would be the sort of boost to blue-collar communities that I hope the new housing minister can get behind. I look forward to the opportunity to meet with her so that we can discuss our shared ambitions and work in partnership to deliver the new generation of council housing we all want to see.”
London played a central role in the development of council housing and the Addison Act. Christopher Addison, the government minister who pushed through the pioneering legislation, was a London MP at the time and had been inspired by the success of municipal housebuilding schemes in the capital.
Today, London’s council housing stock is under considerable pressure. 287,000 London council houses have been sold through Right to Buy since the policy’s introduction in 1980. In 2016-17, 3,138 council homes were sold in London and only 1,445 replaced.
London boroughs have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to increasing provision. When the Mayor of London launched the Building Council Homes for Londoners programme in 2018, boroughs submitted bids to build 17,000 new homes – 6,000 more than could be funded by the available budget. Since 2010, London boroughs have endured a 63% reduction to their core funding from central government.