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The report calls on the government to prepare a National Housing Conversion Fund for England to help struggling tenants and drive the economic recovery. A ring-fenced fund – to enable social landlords and community-led housing groups to buy up private rented housing as well as homes for sale on stalled sites – could be quickly put in place to mitigate the anticipated slump in the housing market. Such an approach has been used in past recessions, including in the early 1990s through the Conservative government’s Housing Market Package.
Lord Best, chair of the Commission, commented that the fund would bring empty and run-down properties back to life, stimulate activity on stalled sites, and assist landlords exiting the market, while addressing the acute shortage of homes at truly affordable rents.
The £1.3bn Fund for England would make grants available to housing providers to purchase existing private rented properties and convert them into new social homes – at genuinely affordable rents. The Fund would also be available for social landlords to acquire properties on stalled sites to kickstart development.
Converting private properties to social housing could provide a floor in some low value markets and help rebalance the housing system, which has become ever more reliant on private renting. Funding would be made contingent on investing in a property to raise standards, which would also generate local employment. A headline cost benefit analysis shows the Fund would deliver 42,500 new social and affordable homes with the majority at social rents and generate 9,300 additional jobs.
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