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Social Housing Speed Read – snap general election

On 18 April Theresa May surprised the nation by calling for a snap general election for 8 June 2017. Over the next two months we will be inundated with manifestos and pledges and many within the housing sector hope to see the housing crisis in the spotlight.

“Top priority”

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation (NHF). acknowledged that much of the focus in the upcoming weeks will be on Brexit.

However he considers that housing cannot be forgotten and that fixing the housing crisis should be a “top priority for any government”. He stated that the NHF will lead the debate and engage with politicians about how housing associations can end the housing crisis.

“Centre stage”

Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, also acknowledges that Brexit will be a major focus in the election, but believes this must not be at the expense of equally important issues – hoping that housing takes “centre stage during the campaign, with a proper debate about how we solve our housing crisis”.

Terrie also expressed a wish for parties to commit to looking at welfare policies (including the Local Housing Allowance cap) which are making “housing even more out of reach for many individuals and families”.

It is likely that many voters will also want to see such commitment, with a recent Ipsos Mori poll published on 19 April 2017 revealing that 51% of voters disagree the extent of the benefits cut – the highest level in four years.

“A focus”

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, is seeking to ensure that housing “continues to be a focus for politicians of all parties during the campaign” whilst he acknowledges that significant progress has been made, he believes there is still a shortage in delivering the number of homes required.

He considers that whoever is in power needs to “continue to develop the policy framework that allows more high quality homes to be delivered”.

What can we expect?

The parties are yet to publish their manifestos and whilst we can expect some focus on housing policies, it is too soon to say whether the housing crisis will be a top priority and take centre stage.

Planning expert Tom Armfield (associate director at planning consultancy Turley) believes that the election will hold up the scheduled amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which means councils would have to wait until the new government is formed to finish Local Plans.

Mr Armfield highlighted that councils are unlikely to want to put Local Plans out for consultation now because they would have to change them anyway.

Announcements in respect of a standardised method for objective assessment of need were also expected from Housing and Planning minister Gavin Barwell, who previously committed to issuing new NPPF proposals, however it is likely we will have to wait until after 8 June to hear these.

Without a doubt, the election is a chance for parties to propose measures to address the housing situation. When announcing the election, Theresa May said Britain needs “certainty, stability and strong leadership” and this is most definitely what is needed to address the housing crisis.

Whoever wins the general election will have no choice but to face the challenge and we await what the upcoming weeks hold for social housing policy.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or if we can help with any other queries you may have, 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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