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industry news


Social housing bosses give cautious welcome to White Paper


Paper, with a series of lukewarm responses that welcomed its move away from housing for sale as the only solution to the current crisis. Perhaps many had interpreted Sajid Javid’s


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promises of radical reforms and tough actions into a sign that greater changes would be delivered. In the end, while acknowledging the positives, senior executives qualified their comments and asked for more resources, greater urgency, or both. David Orr, chief executive of the National


Housing Federation, said: "We welcome the Government’s ambition. The positive announcements – combined with the Autumn Statement’s increased flexibility and extra investment – point towards a more comprehensive and strategic framework to fix the housing crisis.” He added: “However, what the nation needs


now is unwavering political will and courage to see this through. The public backs building more homes - it is time to get on with the job. We urgently need to have honest conversations about how Green Belt land is used.” Orr concluded: “Encouraging private


landlords to offer tenants more security and choice is absolutely the right thing to do. Housing associations share the Government’s commitment to improving life for all renters – across the private and social sector - and driving up standards, already offering 50,000 homes to rent on the open market.”


Infrastructure


Greater caution was expressed by Natalie Elphicke, chief executive of the Housing & Finance Institute and until very recently an adviser on housing policy to the Government, who commented: “There are a large number of technical issues which the White Paper sets out for consultation. This is a technically strong rather than a radical white paper. “Building more homes faster requires


effective infrastructure funding and utilities to deliver in line with development needs. The Housing & Finance Institute is leading a national housing infrastructure pilot in the south East area in this area so welcomes the strong focus for housing infrastructure. “Protections for renters is welcome. But


millions of young people will be disappointed by a continuing focus on ‘build-to-rent'. The White Paper is a missed opportunity to create a step change in innovative finance and modern tenures like rent and buy which support building at scale but also provide housing choice and housing ownership. “The Government is right to support the


building of homes at greater densities and to bring in fairer protection for tenants. But the Government also needs to be careful not to let


enior figures across the social housing sector struggled to hide their disappointment with the Housing White


London off the hook by imposing the biggest housing targets on the South East and further straining infrastructure in those areas. “It is simply wrong to imply that the Home


Counties councils are not doing enough to support national housebuilding. Latest figures on registrations for new properties saw a 14 per cent increase in the South East but a 33 per cent drop in London. London’s poor performance is yet again dragging down national housing growth. Without London, the national performance was up four per cent. With London it is dragged down to two per cent less than the previous year.”


Affordability


Over at the Local Government Association, Councillor Martin Tett, housing spokesman, said: "This White Paper includes some encouraging signs that Government is listening to councils on how to boost housing supply and increase affordability. We are pleased it has taken on board a number of recommendations made in our recent Housing Commission final report. He added: "Communities must have faith the


planning system responds to their aspirations for their local area, rather than simply being driven by national targets. To achieve this, councils must have powers to ensure that new homes are affordable and meet their assessments of local need, are attractive and well-designed, and are supported by the schools, hospitals, roads and other services vital for places to succeed. "Local government believes even more needs


to be done to rapidly build more genuinely affordable homes to help families struggling to meet housing costs, provide homes to rent, reduce homelessness and tackle the housing waiting lists many councils have. "For this to happen, councils desperately


need the powers and access to funding to resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes. This means being able to borrow to invest in housing and to keep 100 per cent of the receipts from properties


sold through Right to Buy to replace homes and reinvest in building more of the genuine affordable homes our communities desperately need."


Standards


The Chartered Institute of Housing attempted to give a balanced and politically neutral response, welcoming the moves to address lack of supply and recognising the crucial role of local authorities. However, concerns over affordability, conditions in the private sector and the impact of current welfare cuts and austerity remain critical areas for change. On the private rented sector, Terrie Alafat CBE,


chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “This sector has grown considerably since the 1990s and is now the second largest tenure after home ownership. Though many landlords provide good quality housing, standards are highly inconsistent and at the lower end of the market they can be very poor. “The ending of a short-term tenancy is the


leading cause of homelessness, so measures to give the millions of people now renting privately additional security are very welcome. We think more can be done to improve standards for the millions of tenants in private rented accommodation, including the introduction of a set of minimum standards and other measures which incentivise providing good quality accommodation.” Turning to the vexed issue of older people’s


housing, Alafat added: “It is welcome that the Government has recognised that helping older people downsize keeps the housing cycle moving by freeing up homes for the many families across the UK who need them and it means that older people can move into accommodation which better supports their independence and health. “A question remains on the future of


supported housing and we would urge the Government to establish a long-term funding model for this vital type of accommodation.”


www.housingmmonline.co.uk | HMM March 2017 | 7


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