The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is a very powerful Parliamentary committee which has the job of scrutinizing government plans to check that they stack up and that they are getting value for money.
In a recently published report, published >> here, they turn their attention to the Department for Communities and Local Government (the Department) and their house building programme.
This is intended to deliver some 80,000 new homes by March 2015.
The Public Accounts Committee are not pleased.
One interesting thing they point out is that the Department is ‘saving money’ by reducing its grant to the builders under an agreement that the builders are then able to charge more rent.
But, as the report points out, if the tenants are on benefit, that just shifts the cost from one department to another.
Here are a few more of their conclusions:
The Department has not done enough to understand the impact of these higher rent on tenants.
- the poorest tenants will be excluded
- tenants on benefits will be in a ‘benefit trap’ as it will be hard for them to find employment that pays enough to fund their housing needs
The Department should do more research into these issues (says the PAC) and use the result of the research in future plans
(Incidentally, even proper ‘affordable housing’ is not really affordable – see my post >> here about a report on this in September 2008.)
The allocation of funds does not focus on areas of greatest need
The higher rent levels will mean that only the ‘richest poor’ will benefit.
The PAC note that in some areas in London, housing has been going to couples rather than families. This is not right.
The Department and the Agency (say the PAC) should ensure that decisions to allocate resources in future social housing programmes prioritise areas of greatest need and target families in greatest need.
- The shift of resources from capital grants to increased housing benefit is not really in the public interest
- There is a risky delivery programme with ‘little room for slippage’
- It has taken advantage of housing builders ability to borrow, which may not be available in the future.
You will find the report online >> here.
Thanks to the Garden Court housing bulletin which alerted me to this report