Monday, 30 March 2015

Reforms to halt construction of larger homes

A provider has warned that a raft of reforms to social housing could stop housing associations building four-bedroom homes.

Brian Johnson, chief executive of Moat Homes, told delegates at the Liberal Democrat conference that his association’s forward development programme contains no four-bedroom homes.

Mr Johnson said a combination of the high rents available to housing associations under the affordable rent regime and housing benefit caps have led ‘many, many’ social landlords to strip out larger properties from their plans. ‘They don’t work under affordable rent,’ he said.

Speaking at a fringe session at the conference, Are we still in it together?, Mr Johnson called for better relations between the Communities and Local Government department and the Department for Work and Pensions.

He warned that proposals by the DWP to pay the housing element of the new universal credit to tenants rather than landlords would cut housing association build programmes by 20 per cent.

‘A pilot that was done with direct payment of benefits suggested the amount of debt that residents were in would double,’ he said. ‘If that happens that will knock through to our forward build programme and reduce it by at least 20 per cent.

‘I would ask the government is this philosophical principle really worth a 20 per cent reduction in social housing new build capacity?’

He also suggested wider reforms to housing benefit are unworkable.

‘From April 2013, working families will be paid housing benefit on the basis of the size of home they are entitled to not the house they occupy,’ he said.

‘What that means for us is that 10 per cent of residents would need to move home in the next 18 months and because the [welfare reform] bill is proceeding slowly through all the various stages I can’t even talk to my residents about it because I suspect it might change. So in reality they will probably have 12 months to move.

‘Let’s suppose I could wave a magic wand and suddenly shift that 10 per cent to the most appropriate sized homes.

‘I’d be so short of one bed properties that I would have to develop just one bed properties for the next two years just to make up that gap. I suspect this could have extremely serious political consequences.’

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