Shelter 'duped' by housing lobby

Friends of the Earth has accused Shelter of being misled by big business into supporting a coalition to build more houses.

The environmental organisation claimed the coalition, whose members include the Confederation of British Industry and homebuilders George Wimpey and Wilson Bowden, wanted the housing charity on board as a sop to public opinion.

"Shelter have been duped into thinking that simply building more houses will lead to the removal of people from housing and homelessness lists," said Paul deZylva, director of Friends of the Earth England. "Those that are in this largely to make a profit are using Shelter to clear their own social consciences."

Shelter director Adam Sampson was appointed chief spokesperson for the coalition, which was launched last week to lobby for the recommendations contained in the Barker Review to be implemented. The review called for an extra 120,000 private homes to be built annually for the next five years.

"The crisis is crying out for a voice that can make the powerful social, economic and environmental case in favour of the homes we so desperately need," Sampson told delegates at the launch.

But Friends of the Earth took issue with the claim and joined forces with the Campaign to Protect Rural England to launch an anti-Barker coalition.

"We're particularly concerned that Shelter may not fully appreciate the implications of this," said deZylva. "If they did, they would be asking more questions of the organisations they're working with."

He accused the coalition of spouting 'Mickey Mouse' economics by suggesting more houses meant less homelessness.

"The debate has to be about the quality of homes, not the quantity," he said. "There is a need for more social housing but builders want to build executive homes that do nothing to address this need," he added.

Nick Schoon, communications director at the CPRE, agreed that the pro-Barker coalition placed too little emphasis on affordable housing.

Trade union Unison, the National Housing Federation and the Town and Country Planning Association also signed up to the powerful pro-Barker alliance.

"We must engage with building groups, just as we are also engaging with green organisations, to ensure that house-building is done in an environmentally sustainable manner," Sampson told Third Sector.

"The massive housing crisis that is wreaking such havoc on the lives of thousands of our clients can only be solved if we tackle the huge shortage of homes in this country."

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