Social Housing Speed Read – the Autumn Statement
28th November, 2016
We review the Government's Autumn Statement and the offerings it has for the housing sector including what changes are likely to be introduced as a result. We also flag up a requirement to amend Notices Seeking Possession under s8 Housing Act 1988.
What was included in the Autumn Statement?
On 23 November the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, announced the Government’s Autumn Statement which, at very nearly the top of his agenda, featured housing, only being preceded by productivity.
The Chancellor recognised that these two issues are inextricably linked and that although the challenge of providing affordable housing is not new “the effect of unaffordable housing on our nation’s productivity makes it an urgent one”.
Mr Hammond also highlighted the need for increased investment in infrastructure to promote housing provision, confirming the Government would “focus government infrastructure investment to unlock land for housing…”
By putting housing so high on his priority list and with the pledges of increased investment and flexibility, the Chancellor has clearly underlined the Government’s commitment to helping the sector face and overcome some of its challenges including delivering increased numbers of housing of mixed tenures.
This is a definite shift in approach to housing by the new Government, with the Autumn Statement and the launch of a new £3 billion Home Builders’ Fund in October both flying in the face of the previous administration’s focus on home ownership.
The Government went on to announce their overall commitment of £7.2 billion to support the construction of housing and other measures including:
- the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, bringing forward the Housing White Paper for release by the end of the year, with its main focus on tackling long-term challenges faced by the sector;
- the introduction of a new National Productivity Investment Fund (‘NPIF’) which will introduce £23 billion of funding up to 2022 for four key areas, of which housing is one;
- the introduction of a new £2.3 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund to deliver infrastructure for up to 100,000 new homes in areas experiencing a high demand;
- an extra £1.4 billion to fund an additional 40,000 affordable homes;
- the Government’s announcement of the relaxation of the restrictions on grant funding to enable providers to deliver increased numbers of housing of different tenures;
- a pledge of £1.7 billion through the NPIF by 2020/21 to accelerate housebuilding on public sector land and through private sector developer partnerships;
- several exemptions to the policy of reducing social sector rents by 1% for a four year period from 2016/17 which include refuges;
- a change to the Pay to Stay policy confirming this would now be voluntary for local authorities;
- a large scale regional pilot of the Voluntary Right to Buy for housing association tenants, to be funded by the Government; and
- the announcement of the Government’s intention to ban letting agents’ fees to increase competition and promote certainty for those renting.
What has been the sector’s reaction so far?
The Government’s proposals have been welcomed by the sector, with the Chartered Institute of Housing calling it a “significant step in the right direction”.
Other sector leaders highlighted the importance of infrastructure to future provision of housing, with the British Property Federation recognising that “infrastructure spending is housing delivery’s silver bullet and the considerable commitment to invest about £2bn a year is therefore very welcome.”
The National Housing Federation was quick to offer its support for the latest Government proposals on housing confirming, “we have been calling on the Government to relax restrictions on existing affordable housing funding, so we are delighted with this announcement”.
The Federation also recognised that “increased flexibility and extra investment will give housing associations the freedom and confidence to build even more affordable homes, including for rent, more quickly across the country”. It even went as far to state that these Government proposals “demonstrate the strong relationship that housing associations have with the new government”.
Although the sector has welcomed these latest developments, there has been some feeling that more could still be done in terms of funding to support those in social rents and in addressing the ongoing issue of welfare reforms such as the LHA cap.
However, this Autumn Statement contains promising signs of a Government which is more responsive to the housing sector’s needs and therefore we look forward to the publication of the Housing White Paper which will give us a complete picture of the housing sector reforms.
STOP PRESS : New prescribed form for Section 8 Notice
The Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) (Amendment No. 2) Regulations 2016 has introduced a new “form 3”. This is now the prescribed form of Section 8 Notice Seeking Possession, and must be used for section 8 notices which are served on or after 1 December 2016.
The updated form reflects the new ground 7B introduced by the Immigration Act 2016 (tenants’ illegality based on immigration status) which also comes into force on 1 December.
It’s essential that organisations ensure their notices are amended from 1 December to avoid proceedings being unnecessarily struck out.
If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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