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three or more years available to those who want them – this appears to apply to new build homes for market rent.

• Government will set out a rent policy for all social landlords to use from 2020, giving them certainty to borrow against future income. There will be further discussions about this with the sector.

• Government will expect all housing associations to make the most efficient use of their resources to deliver the maximum number of new homes.

• Providing more support for local authorities to help them start building by addressing issues that hold them back. All those placed in new affordable homes built by local authorities using models such as local housing companies should have the same rights as existing tenants including the Right to Buy.

• Working with lenders and surveyors to ensure that mortgages are available for properties built through non-traditional construction.

Helping people now

• There will be changes to the Starter Homes scheme. It will be restricted to households earning less than £80,000 (£90,000 in London), there will be a 15 year repayment period for the discount, if properties are sold triggering the repayment of some or all of the discount and all homes must be purchased with a mortgage.

• The number of Starter Homes required on site is to be reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent and for rural exception sites it is acceptable to require a local connection.

• All new developments must have a minimum of 10 per cent of homes available for affordable homeownership.

• Schemes to help older people to downsize, freeing up homes for families who need them will be explored.

The document is now out for consultation until the 2nd

May 2017, before starting its passage through the Commons and Lords. Miscellaneous

Councils will be encouraged to bring more empty homes in their localities back into use, as well as finding ways to help more older people to downsize and free up family-sized homes for younger couples with children. Beyond supporting the Homelessness

Reduction Bill and delivering the financial support announced in the Autumn Statement, the only additional initiative for tackling homelessness appears to be the establishment of a network of expert advisors to share best practice. The Homes and Communities Agency is

being renamed as Homes England from the summer. This change will better reflect its future role, which will not include the regulation of social landlords. While the Government appears to have done

a lot of listening in recent months, there is still some concern and scepticism about the timescale and outcomes that can be delivered, while competing with Brexit for resources and Parliamentary time.

PRS landlords say White Paper will not tackle rental shortage

Plans to boost the supply of homes for rent will ‘fall flat on their face’ without practical support being given to individual private landlords. Although they welcomed the change in

emphasis towards renting and away from a narrow focus on home ownership in the Housing White Paper, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said that institutional investment alone will never achieve the level of supply needed to meet the growing demand for rented homes. The vast majority of rental supply comes

from small landlords and there is nothing in the White Paper to support their continued investment in new housing. Instead, the RLA claimed recent Government policy has been to attack smaller landlords and discourage their expansion. This is clearly a reference to the stamp duty surcharge and proposed tax changes to discourage the buy-to-let market. The RLA has highlighted that institutions

(like pension funds) invest in large population centres to get the mass they need, leaving smaller towns and rural areas continuing to face a shortage of rented housing and associated higher rents.

While welcoming the Government’s plans to encourage corporate landlords to offer longer tenancies, the RLA has pointed out that 25 per cent of small landlords are prevented from offering tenancies longer than a year by their mortgage lender or their insurer. RLA Policy Director, David Smith,

commented: “The White Paper falls a long way short of the radical changes for renters that we were promised. There may be more build to rent resulting from this in our large towns and cities, but without any plans to support the hundreds of thousands of smaller landlords who make up the bulk of the supply, there will continue to be a major shortage.” He added: “Landlords are happy to offer

longer tenancies provided the climate is right to do so. They give landlords certainty and they are good for tenants as rents tend to increase less often.” Smith concluded: “ We will be talking to the Government about what needs to be done to address the barriers preventing landlords from offering longer tenancies without the need for a one size fits all model.”

De-regulation of social landlords underway

The Homes & Communities Agency is consulting the social housing sector on de-regulatory proposals as it seeks to get HA loans and borrowing off the Government’s balance sheet. But it included a sting in its tail over property disposals. As Ministers revealed in the White Paper,

the HCA is being broken up with Homes England re-launched in the summer with a single purpose “to make a home within reach for everyone”. We await what the new regulatory body is to be called and if it will undergo further changes. Meanwhile the HCA has written to all registered providers of social housing outlining the red tape it is cutting from April. It also reminded them of the need to properly consult tenants before disposing of properties or making changes in their management. Jim Bennett, assistant director for

regulatory strategy at the HCA, said some associations have not been “completely upfront” about the possible risks and consequences of their disposal plans, “so we’ve asked them to go back and properly explain to tenants what they’re planning”. From 6 April, the de-regulatory measures

of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 will come into force. This means social landlords will no longer need consent to undertake disposals, restructures or certain

6 | HMM March 2017 |

“From 6 April, the de-regulatory measures of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 will come into force. This means social landlords will no longer need consent to undertake disposals, restructures or certain constitutional changes”

constitutional changes. As a consequence of the consents powers being withdrawn, the HCA is proposing to strengthen the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard to ensure landlords carry out effective consultation with the tenants affected. The measures will probably coincide with

the introduction of the new regulatory fees, set at £4 .72 a property per year, to pay for the majority of the new regulatory body’s running costs. Ministers hope the package of measures

will persuade the Office for National Statistics to reverse its decision to reclassify associations as part of the public sector.

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