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Social Housing Speed Read – “Levelling up” housing in the United Kingdom

On 2 February 2022, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published The Levelling Up White Paper.

The aim of the white paper is to set out how the Government aims to spread opportunity more equally across the UK and pays special mention to the housing sector.

The white paper identifies poor housing quality, overcrowding and a reliance on temporary accommodation for vulnerable families as being a key contributor to poor health and quality of life for many. The Government has therefore pledged that it will take action to combat these issues.

Firstly, a house-building drive has been promised, including “more genuinely affordable social housing”. Secondly, a new drive on housing quality will take place to make sure that homes are of a sufficient standard. New legislation will therefore be introduced to “improve the quality and regulation of social housing, give residents performance information so that they can hold their landlord to account and ensure that when residents make a complaint, landlords take quick and effective action to put things right”. It is estimated that approximately 800,000 homes could be upgraded as a result. A landmark white paper will be published in the spring to set our further information and to consult on the changes, including the abolition of section 21 “no fault evictions”.

It has also been announced, following the publication of the white paper, that Homes England are to provide a new funding pot in order to support the “levelling up missions”. The announcement came after Homes England were tasked with supporting local regeneration efforts by the Government, redirecting funds that had previously been used to target wealthy areas with higher house prices.

The Levelling Up Home Building Fund (first announced in 2020), will support the housebuilding drive by providing loans from a pot of £1.5 billion to enable small and medium enterprise house builders, who struggle to secure commercial loans, to acquire funding (anything between £250k – £250 million). This will help to deliver an estimated 42,000 new homes across the UK.

There are conditions on the fund, however. Schemes will only be eligible if they are financially viable, will provide at least 5 homes, and would otherwise stall without the money. Further, in order to bid for fund access, the applicants must have a controlling interest in the land to be built upon, and a clear plan as to how planning consent would be achieved.

Access to the fund will be prioritised for those schemes that give the best taxpayer value, deliver homes the quickest and are innovative and/or green-focused. Priority will also be given to key levelling up regions, including Sheffield and Wolverhampton.

Two further funds announced are the Home Building Fund, which will offer loans to pay for necessary infrastructure and enabling works on housing schemes, and the £1.5 billion Brownfield Fund, which will help support the regeneration of 20 town and city centres across the UK – including housing projects.

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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