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Lewisham joins 20 of England’s largest local authority landlords to call for the new government to save council homes

Lewisham Council has today joined with England’s other largest council landlords – including Southwark, Bristol, Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham and Dudley – to publish five solutions for the new government to secure the future of England’s council housing.

In March 2024, directors from this cross-party group of 20 local authorities gathered at a summit to address an increasingly urgent financial crisis. Ahead of the full report release later this year, authored by Toby Lloyd and Rose Grayston, this interim release summarises their recommendations.

The report warns that England’s council housing system is broken and its future is in danger. An unsustainable financial model and erratic national policy changes have squeezed their budgets and sent costs soaring. New analysis from Savills shows that councils’ housing budgets will face a £2.2bn ‘black hole’ by 2028.

Unless something is done soon, it reports that most council landlords will struggle to maintain their existing homes adequately or meet the huge new demands to improve them, let alone build new homes for social rent. Across the country development projects are being cancelled and delayed, with huge implications for the local construction sector, jobs and housing market. 

Rather than increasing supply, the reality is that some councils will have no option but to sell more of their existing stock to finance investment in an ever-shrinking portfolio of council homes.

Their recommendations include urgent action to restore lost income and unlock local authority capacity to work with the new government to deliver its promises for new, affordable homes throughout the country.

The five solutions set out detailed and practical recommendations to the new government:

  1. A new fair and sustainable HRA model – including an urgent £644 million one-off rescue injection, and long-term, certain rent and debt agreements
  2. Reforms to unsustainable Right to Buy policies
  3. Removing red tape on existing funding 
  4. A new, long-term Green & Decent Homes Programme 
  5. Urgent action to restart stalled building projects, avoiding the loss of construction sector capacity and a market downturn 

They make up a plan for a ‘decade of renewal’, with local authorities and central government working together to get ‘Housing Revenue Accounts’ (HRAs) back on stable foundations, bring all homes up to modern and green standards, and deliver the next generation of council homes. 

Councillor Will Cooper, Cabinet Member for Better Homes, Neighbourhoods and Homelessness, said: 
“It's a crucial time for housing in Lewisham and across the country. Making sure that everyone has a safe place to call home is a priority for us.

“Social housing is an integral part of making that a reality, but many years of underfunding have led us to a crisis point. Huge and rising costs in providing temporary accommodation, an aging stock, new regulatory requirements, and the cumulative loss of homes through Right to Buy all mean than providing the council homes our communities need is becoming a more unreachable goal by the day.

“We are looking forward to working with the new government and sharing our experience and expertise, and want to convey the urgency of the issues we raise in this report. Putting councils on a firm financial footing is a necessary first step to tackling the wider housing crisis.”

View the interim report.

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