A quick Insurance-Edge.net Editorial on the L&G social housing initiative:
The news last week that insurance giant Legal & General are to move into building affordable housing is a highly significant, almost watershed moment. For decades, UK governments have rejected the idea of building hundreds of thousands of new homes every year to match the population rise, which the very same politicians have encouraged via mass migration.
Instead, a policy of managing the gradual, and some might say piecemeal, refurbishment of old council housing stock, managed by Housing Trusts has led to catastrophic events like Grenfell Tower, a shocking rise in the number of homeless single people and the notorious ‘beds in sheds’ that heat-sensitive cameras are able to detect in many major UK cities. Many young people now openly call for older people’s homes to be confiscated, simply to free up housing stock. Well, I would like their hipster headphones, Glasto tickets and iPhone X please, as I can’t afford them.
Inter generational joking aside, things must change, at a fundamental level, if people of all ages and backgrounds, are to afford decent housing. In the absence of any coherent policy from Westminster, devolved governments or councils, it is refreshing to see Legal and General step into the breach and try to get bricks and mortar actually laid down.
Why are L& G getting involved?
Their press release states that, “Legal & General Affordable Homes will lead the evolution of the affordable housing sector with an aim to become the leading private affordable housing provider in the UK. The UK continues to have a chronic shortfall of over 100,000 homes per year. The position is particularly stark in the affordable housing sector with over 1.3 million households on UK waiting lists with new additions averaging only 30,000 properties a year over the last 10 years.”
It is a great start in addressing the problem, but L&G are the first to admit that they cannot work miracles;
“Legal & General Affordable Homes will aim to be fully operational and delivering 3,000 homes per year within the next four years. With Legal & General’s long term financial backing and utilising the housing management expertise of the leading existing affordable housing providers, the new business will be looking to accelerate and grow the provision of affordable housing across the UK.”
So let us be brutally honest and say well done L&G but now is the time for other insurance companies to join together and also commit to funding social housing projects, especially in London and the South East.
Why not help fund the expansion of container based homes for single people in London, along the same lines as those in the Netherlands? They are cheap to assemble, and offer secure basic accommodation for those looking to live and work in the Capital, but reluctant to share a house with up to 6 other people all nicking your chili cheese from the communal fridge.
Here’s another salient point; most of the big name insurers in the UK have their HQs in London – the most expensive place to rent in the UK by miles. Now if you insist on making your workforce live in London – and in a digital age there is absolutely no need for most of them to do so – then the least you can do is get busy creating a few pleasant, and affordable, housing estates where your less affluent employees can live.
In the past companies like Cadbury’s, Pears soap and many more all made an effort to build model villages for their workers. They saw it as a social duty. Perhaps now is the time for a revival of that noblesse oblige from the insurance corporations, who have benefitted so much from open borders, and hiring from a truly global, highly diverse talent pool.