Call for government to build teachers' housing on free school sites

1st December 2017 at 05:03
Chief executive of Harris Federation warns that unless action is taken, teachers will be priced out of London

The government should take radical action to tackle the teacher housing crisis, including earmarking units for affordable housing when sites are purchased to develop free schools, senior figures have told Tes.

The chief executive of one of the highest profile academy chains in the country said that, unless action was taken, teachers would be completely priced out of the capital.

Sir Daniel Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation, told Tes: “If someone doesn’t do something, there will be no public sector workers left in London – whether they are ambulance drivers, NHS or teachers.”

Earlier this month, members of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) identified housing as one of the key factors driving the school recruitment and retention crisis.

'Huge concern'

Committee chair Meg Hillier, Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, said that a lack of affordable housing for teachers in her constituency was a “huge concern”.

She told Tes that the government should consider using LocateED, the property company set up by the Department for Education to buy free school sites, to develop affordable housing for teachers.

“[The government] are chasing hell-for-leather this ridiculous numerical target for free schools, and instead of that they could be providing a subtler and cleverer approach that also provides housing for teachers,” Ms Hillier said.

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman who sits on the PAC, backed the call, which she said could be part of a broader strategy to “aggressively bring back quotas for key worker housing”.

Sir Daniel agreed that LocateED providing accommodation for teachers was “definitely” a good idea. He said that Harris, which operates exclusively in London, had already explored the idea of working with a housing association to turn underutilised land on its school sites into affordable housing for its teachers.

Possible sites

The multi-academy trust has commissioned a construction firm which has identified “six or seven” sites where there is land “surplus to the play[ground] requirements” on which housing units could be built.

Sir Daniel said he presented his proposals to the education secretary Justine Greening earlier this year and she “seemed keen”, but the plan had not yet received the go ahead.

He said that housing was a “big problem” for Harris staff because key worker housing initiatives – where teachers and other public sector workers receive subsidized accommodation – are “not so prolific” anymore.

“It’s heartbreaking," Sir Daniel said. I get emails from teachers saying ‘can you help us?’ It shouldn’t be like that, because they’re essential people.”

Teachers in need

LocateED is funding a mixed-use development, Ladbroke House in Hackney, which includes affordable housing. However, the DfE permanent secretary Jonathan Slater, admitted to the PAC this month that the department did not have a “comprehensive strategy” for housing “that definitely meets the level of need” among teachers.

Ms Hillier said the government had been “slow to catch up” with a problem that was “predictable” – and that it lacked a joined-up approach to the housing crisis.

“We should have people like Jonathan Slater and indeed ministers in that department banging on the door of the Department for Communities and Local Government, saying ‘these people are keeping our city running – they need to be close to work.’”

Ms Moran said that Mr Slater’s response to the committee on housing was “rubbish”, and accused the DfE of doing “basically nothing” about the issue.

LocatED’s chief executive, Lara Newman, said: “We are looking at how best to advise and support multi-academy trusts and individual schools that have opportunities to use their land and buildings for key-worker housing.”

This is an edited article from the 1 December edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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