Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Government plotting action on HA delivery

The government is quizzing housing association executives about how it can take action to help them build more homes.

Civil servants from the Cabinet Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have over the last few weeks been holding confidential meetings with association figures about development.

It is part of a review to find out if associations have the capacity to deliver their existing housebuilding plans - and how government could help them build more.

Association development directors have been asked how many homes they will build by 2021 and whether they can still build their planned homes given recent policy announcements.

An email from the DCLG to development directors said: “We would also like to find out what further action government could take to help housing associations deliver.”

The findings of the joint review by the DCLG and the Cabinet Office will not be made public and is intended to be “internal advice for the prime minister”, the email said.

Brendan Sarsfield, chief executive of Family Mosaic, said: “It feels like government is more interested in our housebuilding. They know the private sector is not going to up its output, while local authorities’ output is still slow.”

One housing figure interviewed by the civil servants said land availability, planning, rent-setting and the ability of smaller landlords to develop were among the topics raised at his meeting with officials.

Sinéad Butters, chair of Placeshapers, said certainty over supported housing funding, clarity over councils’ policies on Starter Homes, and freedom over rent-setting would all help associations’ build more homes.

She said her organisation Aspire has 3,000 homes below target rent, which could generate an extra £30m over 15 years if rents could rise.

David Montague, chair of the G15 and chief executive of L&Q, also called for more freedom to set rents.

Mick Sweeney, chief executive of One Housing Group, called for the regulator’s role to be drastically reduced to that of an administrator of organisations in trouble. He argued lenders and credit agencies already carry out sufficient regulation.

The news of the review emerged days after David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, strongly defended the sector’s housebuilding record following a negative piece in The Times newspaper.

An Inside Housing survey last week revealed the 50 biggest builders have increased their pipelines by 7,000 homes since last summer.

A DCLG spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work with the sector to ensure they deliver as effectively as possible the new homes that this country needs.”

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