The article below was originally posted on the blogging site, Liberal Democrat Voice, on 11th March:
When the Liberal Democrats entered government in 2010, it was clear we had inherited a housing crisis. House prices and private sector rents were becoming more and more unaffordable. House building had slowed to its lowest level since the 1920s and social housing waiting lists had soared to 1.7 million households. Added to that, successive governments had also let the social housing stock wither on the vine, with 1.5 million homes lost by Labour and Conservative governments alike since 1979.
know that if we are to solve the housing crisis, we need to reverse the decline in social homes and build more. That is why I was delighted recently to see new statistics published by my department (DCLG) showing that the number of social homes has increased for the fifth year running, taking the overall stock back above the 4 million mark for the first time in a decade.
The total number of homes rented from councils or housing associations now stands at 4,013,000, up by 47,000 since the Lib Dems entered government in 2010. This is in part down to our affordable homes programme that will see 170,000 new social and affordable homes delivered over four years to 2015.
This is a good first step, but there is still much more work to do. House building rates are improving, but are still short of keeping up with the number of new households that form each year. At our Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference in 2012, our policy motion 'Decent Homes For All', set out an aim of building up to 300,000 homes a year to meet demand. If we want to meet that ambitious target, more work will need to be done to boost supply, but it won't happen overnight.
The next step is to increase our social and affordable building rate further. That is why we insisted on a new £3.3bn affordable homes programme in last year's spending review that will see 165,000 new affordable homes delivered over three years from 2015. At an average of 55,000 homes a year, this will be the fastest building rate for 20 years.
Although I'm pleased that we're getting on with the job of building more homes, I won't be satisfied until we've done enough to end the housing crisis and guarantee that everyone is able to afford a secure, warm (and environmentally-friendly) home to live in. But I believe that we can still be proud that the first government for over thirty years to be increasing the stock of social housing is the one in which Liberal Democrats are playing such an important role in.