Social Housing Speed Read – Spring Statement: the implications for social housing
18th March, 2019
While the Spring Statement was largely dominated by Brexit, there were a number of announcements relating to social housing. In this week's Speed Read, we discuss the implications of the announcements in the Spring Statement, given on 13 March 2019, for social housing.
New funding for Affordable Housing Guarantee Scheme and Housing Infrastructure Fund
Additional funding for the Affordable Housing Guarantee Scheme was announced to the tune of £3bn. This would fund the building of 30,000 homes and contribute to the Government’s target of 300,000 new homes per year, helping to raise the housing supply to its highest level since 1970.
The Affordable Housing Guarantee Scheme is not direct funding from the Government but is a guarantee from the Treasury to housing associations which allows them to borrow in order to increase housebuilding.
The Chancellor also announced an additional £717m from the Housing Infrastructure Fund, claiming that this would ‘unlock’ up to 37,000 new homes at sites in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, Cheshire and West London.
The Housing Infrastructure Fund totals £5.5bn and is awarded to local authorities with the aim of encouraging housebuilding by granting funding for infrastructure in areas of high demand for housing, allowing greater numbers of residents to be supported, and making more land available for housing.
These announcements from the Chancellor received a generally positive response from the industry, but many commented that more was still needed to boost the social housing market. James Prestwich, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, welcomed the Affordable Homes Guarantee scheme but warned that housebuilders “desperately need new money in the next spending review to build more social housing.”
Patrick Gower, residential research associate at Knight Frank, also responded positively to the announcement of further funding but with the caveat that “the Government must look to a diverse range of housing providers if its ambitious target of 300,000 additional homes every year is to be met…[which] means looking not just to the volume housebuilders…but also to Affordable Housing providers”.
UNISON, the public service union, raised concerns over construction of genuinely affordable housing, highlighting the lack of extra funds for local authority housebuilding to alleviate the lengthy social housing waiting list.
Nick Sanderson, CEO of the Audley Group said the Government’s continued focus on building new homes was the wrong approach, stating that housebuilders “need to know what houses to build, and how to incentivise those living in unsuitable housing to move” in order to fix the affordable housing crisis
Future Homes Standard
The Chancellor introduced the new Future Homes Standard, a new measure to ensure that new houses are energy-efficient and zero carbon by 2025, phasing out the use of fossil fuel-based energy. Additionally, the Government will mandate net gains for biodiversity for new developments in England.
The Northern Housing Consortium are pleased by this, as it will help to reduce both the environmental impact of new build homes and the future energy bills of residents, which is particularly important for those occupying social housing.
However, Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, has criticised the biodiversity measures in particular, stating that they are “burdensome and poorly thought-through” and “will bring yet more costs and more delays for builders.”
As discussed above, the general consensus on the Spring Statement’s social housing announcements is that while the additional funding from the Government is certainly welcome, housebuilders, particularly in relation to social housing, believe that more is needed in order for housing demand to be met.
While the plan to build a further 30,000 houses in order to reach the Government’s target of building 300,000 new houses a year will help to ease the pressure on the housing market, according to James Prestwich, National Housing Federation head of policy, the UK “needs to build 145,000 affordable homes every year” to meet the needs of the housing market, and that “this is not a one off investment, the Government must commit billions of pound every year into building more social housing.”
Additionally, while the Government’s attempts to lessen the environmental impact of future housing are laudable, housebuilders are concerned about the effect that complying with the new regulations will have on them, and it remains to be seen whether the Future Homes Standard is fully implemented or if resistance from housebuilders will soften the Government’s approach.
Ward Hadaway will continue to cover these issues in future social housing Speed Reads as they develop.
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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