A response to Policy Exchange

We welcome Policy Exchange's recent comments on Inside Housing. They've given us a chance to correct some of the things that aren't quite correct in their analysis, and to let you all know what the SHOUT campaign is shaping up to do next.

There's been a buoyant mood around the SHOUT campaign over the last couple of months. Although all the supporters have been busy with the roles they hold outside campaigning to provide homes that people can afford to live in, the team recently held a meeting to decide future direction.

There's a definite sense that the core position of SHOUT, to be a data-driven, cross-party campaign that allows us to inform the debate about the unanswerable economic case for investment in homes people can afford to rent, is a stable one.

Rents that people can afford have been described as 'social' rents, or 'living' or 'genuinely affordable' rents, but the SHOUT campaign has always been clear that such homes would need to be built alongside homes for private rent and ownership, shared or otherwise. The fundamental problem of a lack of supply crosses tenures.

As our campaign has gained momentum we've formed a lot of valuable relationships. These have usually taken the form of other people sharing our vision of a different view of the housing economy such that decent, safe homes are accessible to everyone. We've got some great partners in the Housing Associations who helped us fund the Capital Economics report, and have been pleased to share goals with organisations like the National Federation of ALMOs, TPAS, Shelter and Crisis, to name a few.

All this creates a foundation from which we can support our other goals. Outside forming a political and economic consensus of the long term value of housing assets, the campaign is hoping to help people tell their real and positive stories about their experiences of living and even working in social housing.

By breaking down commonly held misconceptions about what social housing is, we hope to create an environment where everyone can support the provision of genuinely affordable homes for rent.

This mission can only really be facilitated by an ongoing effort to keep our message current. For this reason we'll be attending party conferences, continuing to spread the word about what great value and great communities are fostered by what we see as an investment in the future.

We're very glad, therefore, to have the opportunity to discuss once again the irrefutable Capital Economics report we helped to commission, as a result of Chris Walker of Policy Exchange writing a slightly belated response to the report on Inside Housing this week.

There are a number of issues with the approach that Policy Exchange has taken with its response, which Martin Wheatley will highlight shortly in a more detailed response in Inside Housing. The main problems are firstly the assumptions PE make about what the Capital Economics report sets out to demonstrate.

The SHOUT/NFA report isn't about comparing the merits of an equal amount of money investment in either social or 'affordable' rents, it's about how a sustained program of investment saves billions of pounds when compared with the central cause of the rising housing benefit bill – an ever increasing cost due to more and more private rents, and higher rents charged through the 'affordable rent' program.

The second assumption that Policy Exchange make is that the housing benefit bill can be reduced further by encouraging a reduction in the amount of Housing Benefit spend through the provision of more homes for shared ownership. As a campaign, SHOUT certainly supports shared ownership for those tenants who desire and can afford to take up this offer, but as Shelter has shown, the economic argument for shared ownership is far from clear cut.

One of our most positive discussions at our recent meeting relates to the work we're going to be doing in future to add to and strengthen the evidence base for the case for investment in sustainable future homes. We're already looking to partner with other organisations on projects that relate to these aims.

We remain a small group of volunteers, and to progress such work we will continue to need sponsors and supporters. If anyone would like to support work of this kind, as a viable alternative the the ongoing issues of supply and affordability, or indeed with case studies to debunk the negative stereotypes around social housing, please get in touch.

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    UPDATED October 2016 Capital Economics report: Building Social Rent homes
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