On 18 May 2020, the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) wrote to all social housing residents in England (residents).
The measures that will be introduced represent a turning point in government policy, challenging the orthodoxy that has existed for the last 30 years. In this article I give personal comment on the new measures and what we might see next.
In my view there are three things the Government is looking for from housing associations;
- To provide good quality rented housing to those who for financial reasons cannot afford to be homeowners
- To be seen as organisations which help customers to achieve their homeownership aspirations
- To work with multiple partners as agents for change
To provide good quality rented housing to those who for financial reasons cannot afford to be homeowners
The starting point here is the continued roll out of Universal Credit (for which 2016 is an important milestone as Spring should see all new applicants across the country included) and the future limiting of housing payments to LHA.
These two things mean that for many housing associations tenants are being put in the position of consumers since more tenants will be looking to save expenditure; will that mean the beginnings of a market for rented social housing? It all depends on location. But there is a far wider pool of prospective tenants for whom homeownership will remain out of touch; they can afford to rent on the private market but would value long term fixed tenancies for stability; expect to see more and more associations including housing for such people as part of a portfolio.
To be seen as organisations that help customers to achieve their homeownership aspiration
This starts with the Voluntary Right to Buy (VRTB); the grant funding means that housing associations will be forced to develop/purchase properties quickly to ensure they get the full discount back and retain some sort of number.
The problem is that shared ownership won’t work everywhere. This will see more housing associations becoming developers; building starter homes. It will also see more hybrid schemes; a return of Try Before You Buy and other initiatives.
To work with multiple partners as agents for change
Many housing associations need to reset their relationships with local government; they need to truly partner with them to provide a range of services that local government needs. Expect to see an increase in joint ventures (say, undertaking developments which would not be profitable for commercial builders). Somewhere there is a place making message here.
Also expect to see some joint ventures with the NHS; not opening wards or even care, but providing new housing for staff and other key workers, perhaps subsidised by some open market sales.
In my view, once looked through the above prism, the regulatory and legislative reforms start to make a lot of sense.
The challenge for housing associations is to take the opportunities that will present themselves; the freeing up of consents, the reduction in remit of the HCA; all mean that it won’t be “what are you telling us to do” but “what can you do to make a difference”. Good luck!
For more information
If you require further information or advice with regard to the housing sector, please contact Jonathan Cox
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