26 Jan 2024

Housing sector raises concerns over potential 'British homes for British workers' policy

Together, with 16 housing organisations, we have today written an open letter to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for housing, voicing our acute concerns about the British homes for British workers policy rumoured to be under consideration.

The letter - authored by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) was co-signed by National Housing Federation, Local Government Association (LGA), Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH), National Federation of ALMOs (NFA), PlaceShapers, Homeless Link, Shelter, Crisis, St Mungo’s, Generation Rent, The No Accommodation Network, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), the Welsh Refugee Council and Tai Pawb – states:

“We all deserve safe housing, regardless of where we are from. Further rationing of an already scarce resource does not address the fundamental failures of the last 40 years – we have simply not built the homes the UK needs to ensure everybody has a safe and secure place to live. At the same time, we’ve seen net losses of social rented homes grow – exceeding 200,000 since 2011 - mainly due to right to buy.”

The letter continues:

“Social housing is designed to support those in the greatest need. Government data shows that 90 per cent of new social housing lettings go to UK nationals, with long waiting lists in all areas. Imposing extended qualification periods before people can even get on the housing register is likely to force more people into homelessness. If the government’s main concern is to increase the availability of social lettings, it could achieve this far more effectively by building more social housing.”

Gavin Smart, chief executive at Chartered Institute of Housing, who coordinated the letter, commented:

"It’s hard to comment on speculative policy but we are entrenched in a housing crisis and focusing on the wrong policies will not alleviate the escalating situation.

"We’ve currently got 1.4 million people on the social housing waiting list and it’s growing by the day. Homelessness is at record levels and councils are struggling with the cost of rising temporary accommodation. We urgently need to increase the supply of social rented homes – that means building more and reducing the loss generated by policies such as right to buy.

"Further rationing of an already scarce resource does not address this. And with government data showing that 90 per cent of new lettings in social housing go to UK nationals it’s questionable whether the new approach suggested would achieve its intended aims.

"We urge the government to focus efforts on housing solutions to boost supply. We’re committed to working with them on this – building on our collective calls for a genuine long-term plan for housing."

Matt Downie, chief executive at Crisis added:

“These plans will do absolutely nothing to deliver the levels of social housing we need and only seek to pin the blame on a group of people in desperate need of support.

“The government knows full well that councils already have strict rules in place so that only UK citizens and those with settled status can access a home. It also knows that the reason why waiting lists for social housing have topped 1.2 million is because of successive governments failure to build them.

“What we need is reasonable, sensible solutions to the housing crisis that must involve a plan to deliver 90,000 social homes every year. Exclusionary tactics will not see us end homelessness for good.”

A copy of the letter sent

Read the letter sent to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State.

Reply received from Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities

Read a copy of the letter received by Gavin Smart from Rt Hon Michael Gove MP in response to the sector letter.

DLUHC letter 26 February 2024