Key workers, both in the public and private sector, were and are at the forefront of tackling Covid. A new report by the Centre for Policy Studies is calling for changes to help them get their foot on the property ladder, and repay them for their efforts during the pandemic.
‘Homes for Heroes’ would be a new type of housing to help key workers such as nurses, teachers or supermarket workers. It would also help to increase the supply of new homes overall, the Government’s objective from planning reforms. This approach would complement the Government’s new First Home product to boost ownership over the rest of this decade.
The report argues that new local plans as currently proposed by government should ensure that land for 50,000 homes a year should be set aside for Homes for Heroes across England, giving a total of 250,000 such homes across the five-year land supply that Government is aiming for, while helping key workers into ownership.
Homes for Heroes would encourage private investors to work with local councils, delivering affordable homes for key workers. A large proportion of all homes on any of these sites should offer a lower-cost path to home ownership, such as shared ownership or rent to buy, with the remainder dedicated to good quality family rental property, with strong tenancy protections. This would help those with secure jobs to get on to the housing ladder and gradually increase their ownership share, without the need for a hefty deposit.
The report, co-written by former No 10 housing adviser Alex Morton, argues that the Government could boost such a scheme at no real cost by enabling the scheme to access existing housing guarantees, building on the success of past guarantee schemes such as the in the private rental sector. This would not be a new commitment, but would involve reallocating around £5 billion pledged but currently sitting unused.
This approach would also help diversify the housing market, encouraging new market entrants, new products and a new customer base.
The report also suggests that the definition of ‘key worker’ could be expanded, as in other countries, with a focus on those who had to keep working in critical, public-facing roles throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and include all relevant private sector workers as well as public sector workers.
The proposals also echo the 2019 Conservative manifesto, which said that councils should be able to prioritise key workers when allocating local housing via the First Homes scheme. Homes for Heroes would ensure key workers in every area have access to low-cost home ownership, regardless of the approach taken by the council.