The Government first announced plans for a shared ownership right to buy in October 2019. At the time the sector raised concerns about the impact the plans would have on housing associations ability to borrow. An election and a pandemic later the Government announced, during the CIH Housing Festival last week, the return of the right to shared ownership as part of its Affordable Homes Programme (AHP).
The Chancellor didn’t tell us much more than we already knew about the new Government’s plans for infrastructure over this Parliament and it seems that the Government isn't entirely sure about how infrastructure investment will be spent over the next five years. A National Infrastructure Delivery Plan is due next Spring and will provide more insight into the key projects that will be delivered during this Parliament.
What is good news is the Government’s support for devolution, private finance, smaller infrastructure projects and housing...
The new Government has reiterated its support for devolution of power from Whitehall with the announcements of the £1.8 billion Growth Deals to Local Enterprise Partnerships and the commitments to the West Midlands Combined Authority, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Greater London Authority. However, the £1.8 billion was announced by Greg Clark in March 2016, so this is not new money.
To encourage private finance the Government has extended the life of the UK Guarantees Scheme, but that probably reflects the fact that they haven’t used the scheme for anything like the £40 billion as they had stated at the start in 2012. Large infrastructure projects do take a long time to come to close. The initial pipeline of infrastructure projects set to benefit from Private Finance 2 (PF2) will not be announced until early 2017. In our experience, that means that any projects announced may take at least a couple of years before there is a “spade in the ground”.
The Chancellor focused on smaller infrastructure projects rather than super-sized infrastructure projects which should mean that every pound has more impact at a local level. The issue with large national projects is that they take decades to happen, their costs seem out of proportion, and they have little positive impact on ordinary people. Therefore, it was good news that he announced that the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) would invest £1.1 billion by 2020-21 in funding to relieve congestion and deliver long-awaited upgrades on local roads and public transport, with a further investment of £220 million for key pinch-points on strategic roads.
We were expecting a big announcement on housing. The Chancellor did commit to a £2.3 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund which will target new private house building with the aim of delivering up to 100,000 new homes in areas of greatest housing need. Grant funding restrictions will be relaxed to allow providers to build a mix of low-cost ownership and affordable rent properties. The NPIF has committed £1.4 billion to deliver 40,000 houses by 2020-21. Also, £1.7 billion has been invested from NPIF in an accelerated construction scheme with the intention of speeding up construction of new homes.
The elephant(s) in the room…
We still need to address the lack of capacity and skills in the construction industry. If we are to build more houses and more infrastructure to encourage investment in the UK pre and post-Brexit we need to increase this training through apprenticeships and further education. If we don’t, then there is a risk we will miss the new housing targets.
The costs of materials are likely to go up because of the fall in the value of the pound. This may mean that the funds announced will not be enough to build the houses and fund the transport projects to the same extent. We can hope that market forces will at some point reverse the fall but with the growing UK debt mountain and the lack of certainty around the UK’s trading and economic status post-Brexit, this will be a challenge.
On a good note…
At least Birmingham now has £5 million to upgrade its rail service. Get rid of those pesky Autumn leaves on the line!
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Two final pieces of the possession jigsaw have been published on 15 September 2020. Mr Justice Knowles’ working group on possession proceedings has issued its guidance on the “overall arrangements” for possession proceedings.
One change proposed by the Building Safety Bill is the introduction of a duty holder regime, which will see statutory responsibility for the safety of higher risk buildings placed on key individuals
Throughout this pandemic, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been publishing various “Statements on Coronavirus” (Statements) which provide guidance on consumer rights during this time.
A recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the UK means new measures are being put in place in an effort to reduce the risk of a second wave. Whilst the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt, it is important to remain focused on the sector’s road to recovery.
Sometimes half an hour at a conference gives you the reality that has been staring you in the face all along. That was my experience watching “Change is on the Horizon”
Following our recent e-briefing on Possession Notices, Helen Tucker and Emilie Pownall from our housing litigation team discuss the impact of the changes on social landlords.
Not only has the possession stay been extended until 20 September, the notice periods to be given to tenants has been extended in certain circumstances with some important exceptions.
The Court has confirmed that a party cannot withhold its consent in order to re-write the original bargain.
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, building safety continues to be a key concern for social housing providers and their residents.
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