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Industry responds to May’s housing association cash boost

Words: Laura Edgar
Housing / iStock-807295382

Prime Minister Theresa May today (19 September) said £2 billion in funding will go to housing associations to help them build more homes. Industry professionals have said this must be just the start in delivering more homes and changing the image of social housing.

Must be only the start


Polly Neate, Shelter CEO, said: “There are over a million households on social housing waiting lists, and yet last year we built the lowest number of social homes at any point since the Second World War.

“This is why it’s good to see the prime minister today indicating the government is starting to get serious about correcting this historic failure.

“This must be the start and not the end. What we need now is more social homes actually being built as well as a big shift in attitude to start viewing social housing as a right for hard-pressed families across the country.

Wrong to suggest councils are not capable


Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), said: “Councils have always been proud of their housing and tenants and the positive recognition of social housing by the prime minister today must be shared by all.”

He welcomed the cash for housing associations, but Porter took issue with the prime minister when she said councils are not capable of building new homes at scale. Porter explained that councils are being “hamstrung by Treasury restrictions which prevent them from borrowing against their existing housing stock”.

“The last time this country built homes at the scale that we need now was in the 1970s, when councils built more than 40 per cent of them. Councils were trusted to get on and build homes that their communities needed, and they delivered, and they can do so again.

“If our country is to get back to building the 300,000 homes a year we need, then the government needs to ensure all areas of the country can borrow to invest in building new affordable homes and the necessary infrastructure to go with them.”

Changing perceptions


Brian Cronin, group chief executive of Your Housing Group, a landlord and social housing provider with more than 28,000 homes across North West, Yorkshire and the Midlands, said: “Like the government, we want to change the nature and perception of the social housing sector, by creating property journeys for residents, which are more attuned to the lives they lead.

“Having a good-quality rented home, managed by a professional dedicated landlord can create a more flexible, less onerous tenure, at a lower cost for the tenant. Our aim is for our residents to be proud to rent.”

Funding must go towards inclusive design


Félicie Krikler, director of Assael Architecture, said the funding is a “necessary” addition to recent government initiatives on social housing.

“It now appears to be finally accepted among the top tiers of government that fixing the UK’s housing market requires a substantial increase in the amount – and quality – of social housing units available across the country.”

Yet, Krikler continued: “Instilling ‘pride’ in living in social housing and challenging the existing stigma, as May puts it, means rethinking how to design and crucially manage social housing. Pride in one’s home is made possible through quality and contextual placemaking, where community bonds are encouraged among residents and with the wider community. But past failings show that no matter how good design is, it falls by the wayside when managed poorly.

“The additional funding to housing associations and local authorities pledged… must be used to pioneer good, long-lasting and inclusive design, as well as allocating a significant chunk of funds to ensure that the management of social housing serves the general public. If not, we are destined to let history repeat itself.”

Fund suggests government is serious


Matthew Good, director in Planning at WYG commented: “This £2 billion fund for housing associations suggests that government are serious about trying to meet their target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. Any move to help de-risk the process should assist in encouraging housing associations to build more homes. James Brokenshire suggests the fund will deliver 40,000 new homes by 2028/29. This sounds ambitious but even if true there is still a long way to go if the government is to meet its overall target of 300,000.”

Empower councils to build on bigger scale


Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for housing and planning, welcomed the cash. “It was good to hear the Prime Minister emphasise the value of social housing and the need to build more homes for social rent. London faces a chronic shortage of social housing, and this has all sorts of knock-on effects on communities’ well-being and the affordability of living in the capital.

But, he continued, there is much more the government could do.

“Addressing the worsening housing crisis and the rising rates of homelessness in the capital means empowering boroughs to build homes on a much bigger scale.

“London boroughs are determined to increase delivery of the new homes our communities need. In the past year alone we have approved planning permission for 55,000 new homes and we aspire to build a new generation of high-quality council houses. However, continuing restrictions on the use of Right to Buy receipts and the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap are holding us back. Councils must be allowed to borrow to invest in the social housing that we all want to see.”

Image credit | iStock