Headlines: September 8th, 2009

A major new report has concluded that Britain’s social housing system needs to be “urgently and radically” overhauled to deal with the growing problem of overcrowding. The 40-page report, ‘Room to Move’, from the Local Government Information Unit was commissioned by Westminster Council. The Council has been at the forefront of tackling overcrowding in central London, to find a long-term solution to the problem.

It calls for an overhaul of the law and fundamental changes to local government finance which would loosen the constraints on councils so they could build more houses and tackle the conditions leading to overcrowding.

Amelia Cookson, head of the LGiU’s Centre for Service Transformation, said: “The level of overcrowding should come as a shock, not least because the space is out there, there just isn’t any way to share it around. Housing is such a basic human need, we need all our creativity to find a way to house everyone.”

The report recommends giving councils the freedom to create a mixed economy of tenure to widen the housing choices available to social tenants and creating a less static housing system to meet demand more fairly and to make people more mobile to react to changes in family size and employment. It also wants to see a review of the local connection rule to create more equity between councils with regard to their ability to provide numbers they have to house and their ability to provide homes.

Westminster Council’s cabinet member for housing, Philippa Roe, said overcrowding was one of the biggest issues facing the housing sector and broad reform was needed to tackle it. “This report presents an important step in making the case for change that is much needed to allow local authorities like Westminster to best meet the needs of their residents,” she added.