17 Oct 2022

PlaceShapers and CIH call on government to implement five measures for fairness and sustainability

In a joint letter sent to DLUHC and DWP, on Thursday 13 October, PlaceShapers and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) call on government to introduce five measures in the Chancellor’s 31 October fiscal plan that would help protect people over the winter while building the country’s long-term resilience to energy price spikes, broader cost of living pressures and the housing crisis.  

The housing sector bodies joint proposals would:

  • protect the people who need the most support this winter while stimulating the economy
  • lower energy bills through improved efficiency while scaling up the country’s delivery on net zero
  • build more affordable, energy efficient homes and improve the quality and insulation of existing homes.

The five measures are:

  1. Increase benefits in line with the consumer prices index annual rate for September 2022, as the government had previously committed to.
  2. Align VAT at 5% for core improvements to existing domestic buildings (excluding DIY and interior decoration) in line with VAT for demolition and new build development. On labour alone, this could provide a £15.1 billion stimulus to the economy, 95,480 extra jobs over five years, and save almost 240,000 tonnes of CO2 from 92,000 homes.
  3. Allocate additional grant funding so investment in future homes is not harmed by any lost rental income associated with a rent cap. At a minimum this should equal the savings government would make in housing benefit from any ceiling.
  4. Relax the criteria on existing housing funds to allow more regeneration and retrofitting. This will help unleash the pent-up capacity to improve existing homes and places and to help get as many homes built and upgraded as possible including retrofit programmes to insulate homes and switch them to renewable heat and energy solutions.
  5. Reform the Recycled Capital Grants Fund, allowing providers to use this to invest in home improvements and retrofit, not just net additional homes.

In submitting the letter Matthew Walker, chair of PlaceShapers, said:

“We support the Government’s growth ambition, but this cannot be at the expense of the people who are struggling the most. Our members exist to provide homes to people who would struggle to rent at market rates, often on the lowest incomes. The country needs more of these homes and to invest in the quality of them.

“People on the lowest incomes are already disconnecting their gas or electricity and unable to afford to cook hot meals for themselves and their children. The benefits system provides an invaluable safety net for families across the country, including the 41% of recipients of Universal Credit who are in work. High inflation is shrinking financial support to an unsustainable point. The consequences, such as increased homelessness and physical and mental ill-health, are placing additional strain on already stretched public services. It’s a false economy not to increase this support in line with inflation.”

Gavin Smart, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), commented:

“CIH is clear that affordability for social housing tenants and residents is of utmost importance. We know that social landlords share these concerns and have been working hard to protect affordability and support those most in need.

“However, urgent government intervention is needed to protect those on the lowest incomes by uprating benefits and increasing energy efficiencies. We urge the government to act now to increase investment in building more affordable, energy efficient homes and improve the quality and insulation of existing homes, all of which will add to the government’s growth agenda.”

The letter was sent, on Thursday 13 October, to Rt Hon Simon Clarke MP, Secretary of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Chloe Smith MP, Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions.