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Wednesday, May 26, 1999 Published at 23:07 GMT 00:07 UK


UK

Urgent call for affordable housing

Many more new homes are needed to meet demand, says Shelter

Increases in vacant 'social housing' in some parts of England should not be used as an excuset to stop building new affordable homes, according to homeless charity Shelter.

It says a report by researchers at Cambridge University and the London School of Economics shows that current provision of affordable housing will provide less than half the homes required to meet need.

Shelter says there has been a rise in the number of vacant social houses and flats in some parts of the country, such as London, the North East, Yorkshire, Humberside and Merseyside, but it says the number of affordable homes needed far outstrips this.

The report, No Excuse Not to Build, says reducing vacancy rates in areas where there has been an increase to the national average would provide just 10,500 new homes.

According to government statistics, some 166,430 households were accepted as homeless by local authorities in 1998.

Call for stock increase

Previously, experts have stated that 115,000 new homes were needed each year between 1991 and 2011 to meet demand.

Since 1991, fewer than 65,000 new affordable homes have been built and in 1997/98 only 57,000 were made available.

The report says current levels of investment will only be enough to provide 50,000 new homes a year.

Chris Holmes, director of Shelter, said: "There is a growing - and worrying - acceptance that because we have seen an increase in empty council and housing association homes in some areas, we have enough affordable homes to tackle existing need and prevent increasing homelessness.

"Whatever other measures are taken to improve the use of existing stock, we must increase the numbers of homes built for people on lower incomes."

He added that more effort needed to be made to use existing housing stock, for example, by converting vacant shops and offices.

Shelter says current government planning policy will not address the housing problem and it is calling for all regional guidance and structure plans to include targets for new social housing.

Chris Holmes said: "Shelter fears that, although millions of homes will continue to be built for the better off, those on low incomes will face increasing risk of homelessness in the coming decades."



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