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Social Housing Speed Read – Housing needs

Welcome to our fourth and final Speed Read supplement on the Housing White Paper. This week we will be looking at Chapter Four of the Paper, which sets out how the Government intends to help people's housing needs in the short-term.

Please click here for chapter one, here for chapter two and here for chapter three.

By setting out a strategy to tackle the impact that the housing shortage has on people, the Housing White Paper sets out how communities will receive assistance.

As with our earlier supplements, social housing providers have an important role to play. We will assess what’s expected from them.

What are the measures intended to help people into secure homes?

Measures which the Government will support, or continue to support include:

  • The Help to Buy and Starter Homes initiatives;
  • The Affordable Homes Programme, helping those who are priced out of the housing market;
  • Making renting “fairer” for tenants;
  • Ensuring that fees paid by leaseholders are transparent and fair;
  • “Cracking down” on empty homes;
  • Encouraging housing development that will support the future population; and
  • Doing more to house the vulnerable, and prevent homelessness.

Setting out the case to change the status quo, the Government has emphasised the sheer unaffordability of housing across the country.

The value of housing as an investment product has pushed up prices, driving many people into the rented sector.

Private sector tenancies are, through letting agents’ fees and lack of secure tenure, costlier and riskier – the loss of such tenancies is now the most common cause of homelessness.

How do housing associations feature in the Government’s plan?

Most housing association tenants do not currently have access to the Right to Buy scheme. The Government has, since its manifesto, shown its intent to extend this right to housing association tenants, and in October 2015 made a deal with the sector to grant the Voluntary Right to Buy.

The Housing White Paper shows that the Government sees the Right to Buy as an important part of its overall strategy.

The Autumn Statement provided extra funding towards an expanded regional pilot. The expectation still is that, over time, the Right to Buy will be extended; if the financial arrangements can be worked though.

How have plans to extend the Right to Buy within the social housing sector been received?

Social housing tenants’ ability to buy their homes is not new, and is not without its challenges. In a May 2016 speed read article we looked at the concerns raised by the Public Accounts Committee, in their report on the Government’s flagship scheme to extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants.

In October 2016 we looked at the voluntary Right to Buy pilot, and expressed concern over whether an extension of the scheme could risk the sustainability of social housing.

Despite a theoretical commitment to replace the housing stock which was sold, the Committee flagged the potential for house sales to exacerbate the housing shortage further.

Nearly 12 months on from the report and 1 month since the White Paper’s publication, would the Committee’s concerns still be valid?

As we know, the White Paper sets out an expectation that housing associations will build more, and invest in development. The White Paper also promotes mixed tenure and, if housing associations are able to boost house building, then the Right to Buy for their tenants may work effectively to expand housing provision.

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.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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