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16/11/2017

Housing associations reclassified as private bodies

Words: Laura Edgar
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Communities secretary Sajid Javid has announced that housing associations will be reclassified as private sector organisations.

Speaking in Bristol, Javid said housing minister Alok Sharma had signed the legislation that would make this happen yesterday (15 November), remove related debt from the government's balance sheet.

The move will free housing associations from the “shackles of public sector bureaucracy”, allowing them to “concentrate on their core, crucial mission – building homes”.

David Orr, chief executive at the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, said he “strongly” supports the move.

“This is welcome recognition of their position as independent social businesses with a shared social purpose of building a quality home that everyone can afford.

"Housing associations already represent excellent value for the taxpayer – for every £1 the government puts in, housing associations put £6 of their own.

"In the last year, the sector started building almost 50,000 new homes – an increase of 13 per cent on 2015/16. This change will allow them to build on their strong track record and secure the long-term finance needed to build even more affordable homes.”

Councils and local plans

On local plans, Javid said 70 local authorities still haven’t adopted a local plan, more than 13 years after the process was first introduced. Of those, 15 “are showing particular cause for concern”.

“No plans means no certainty for local people.”

Javid said he had begun the process of intervention outlined in February’s housing white paper. Those councils are: Basildon, Brentwood, Bolsover, Calderdale, Castle Point, Eastleigh, Liverpool, Mansfield, North East Derbyshire, Northumberland, Runnymede, St Albans, Thanet, Wirral, and York.

They have until 31 January 2018 to explain why they haven’t published a plan. Javid will consider these reasons before deciding whether to use the powers he has to direct specific actions on the councils.

He implored them: “Get your plan written. Get your plan adopted.”

Barriers

Speaking on affordability, Javid said those saying that there isn’t a housing problem in the country are “usually baby boomers who have long-since paid off their own mortgage” and are not facing up to the modern market.

He pledged to “fix the broken housing market”, stating that he is as far from complacency as he can get.

He wants to see collaboration and a huge range of different groups working together to tackle the “many faces” of the housing challenge.

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) should be less cautious; for Javid, it should be more aggressive and more muscular. Housebuilders should be building more quickly, with the government “actively removing barriers to build-out” he said.


Read more:

Ministerial statement on local authority intervention:

Housing white paper: Government to support SMEs and renters

Sajid Javid’s full speech


Image credit | Conservative Party

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