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From the archive (23 Nov) – report finds no affordability problem with HA rents

Inside Housing looks back at what was happening in the sector this week five, 15 and 25 years ago

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25 years ago

A new report from the Housing Corporation found there was “no major affordability problem” with housing association rents.

The body, which was the forerunner to the Homes and Communities Agency (now Homes England), found that tenants in housing association properties were paying on average only 10% of incomes net of housing benefit on rent.

According to the agency, only 2.1% of multi-person households spent more than 25% of net income on rent – the level it set as its affordability threshold. However, around 10% of tenants living alone paid more than its benchmark for single households, of 30% of net income.

The Housing Corporation’s figures differed from a similar study carried out by the National Federation of Housing Associations, which included housing benefit as income. That study found more than three-quarters of new housing association lets were above its affordability threshold of 22%.

15 years ago

A new merit-based ratings system for housing inspections was being considered, with sanctions for poor performance and rewards for excellence.

The proposed star rating system was part of a review of inspection methodology launched by the Audit Commission, which sought to improve the links between performance and the allocation of development funding for housing associations.

The commission suggested that ‘preferred partner’ status should be given only to better-performing landlords. Conversely, it wanted to be able to name and shame poorer performers, where it said the Housing Corporation should intervene. Such a move would have brought housing associations in line with councils.

Other proposed changes included for the commission to inspect landlords’ work on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis, rather than look at an organisation as a whole.

These inspections would include assessments of progress made in meeting the Decent Homes Standard, as well as rent collection and arrears management. At the time, these functions were outside inspectors’ scope.

The commission also mooted a self-assessment process, and a parallel system whereby neighbouring associations would carry out peer reviews.

Five years ago

Housing minister Kris Hopkins dismissed claims that welfare reform was making it harder to let larger social homes.

There had been mounting concern that a combination of a sluggish local housing market and the bedroom tax would make it difficult for landlords in some parts of the country to rent out properties.

“I don’t know of any authority out there that doesn’t have a waiting list and it won’t be difficult to find people that fit the shape of those houses,” Mr Hopkins told Inside Housing, in an exclusive interview.

He added that landlords needed “to be creative and make sure all of those homes are utilised”.

He also said councils “may want to sell housing and use that receipt to build what is needed in their local communities”.

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