The Homes for Britain campaign has done an incredible job of pushing housing up the political agenda to make it one of the top election issues.
We now have an even bigger job ahead of us: to hold the new government to account and ensure they deliver a plan to end the housing crisis, with housing associations as their key partner.
We’ve already been talking to all the political parties over the last few months about what policy solutions would help unleash the full potential of housing associations. Alongside this, we’ve been having conversations with members up and down the country about the issues that affect you in the markets and communities where you work. You told us that the challenges around investment and land are a priority for action, and that you need greater control over your businesses if you are able to do more for your tenants and future tenants.
All this feedback has gone into three big ideas that you and we believe will make the biggest difference housing associations and the far-reaching goals set out in An Ambition to Deliver. These ideas will now form the backbone of our own long-term plan for ending the housing crisis within a generation, which we’ll be presenting to the new government after the election.
Three big ideas
Having the funding and flexibility to invest in the things that will make the biggest difference to ending the housing crisis, from building new homes to regenerating or improving existing homes and communities, would be truly transformational. That is why we are calling on the next Government to:
- Invest at least £2.5 billion a year to deliver 80,000 new affordable homes and meet affordable housing need in full.
- Bring public investment together in one funding stream, which housing providers can access to deliver outcomes for communities rather than specific outputs.
Ensuring enough land comes forward at the right price will be crucial if we are to build the 245,000 new homes needed every year to keep up with housing demand. We are urging the next Government to:
- Take a local approach to land, where control over the release and use of public land is held in the right place at a local level.
- Encourage public bodies to sell their land at a fair price.
- Introduce ‘zoning’, where clear requirements are set out in local plans for all sites identified as suitable for housing, sending clear signals to the market on price and speeding up planning.
3. Freedoms and flexibilities
Giving housing associations greater flexibility to manage their businesses and assets would lead to a better offer for tenants and better value for money for Government and taxpayers. We are asking the next Government to:
- Give housing associations the flexibility to set individual rents within an overall ‘rent envelope’ so they can provide a range of sub-market rents that are much more responsive to local housing need and local labour market conditions.
- Ensure a more responsive approach is taken to allocations so people waiting for an affordable home get one that best suits their needs.
- Allow housing associations with properties transferred from a local authority to value this stock appropriately, which would raise considerable additional borrowing capacity for the development of new affordable homes at no cost to the public purse.
Our ideas are bold. They are not about making small changes to existing policy. They are about making sure we have a system that works well into the future. The housing crisis is very different across the country - we need solutions that will have the biggest impact in all of these places and in all of these different markets.
These ideas are not the sum total of our proposals. We know there is much more housing associations can do, and want to do, to deliver for tenants and communities. That is why we will also be putting forward our ideas for how you can make a bigger contribution across a range of different areas, including health, care and support and getting more tenants back into work, with the right system in place. And of course, we will continue to argue for a welfare system that supports your tenants and ensures you can continue to deliver in the long-term.
Housing associations are ready and willing to play a central role in ending the housing crisis and supporting strong, vibrant communities. Now’s our chance to get the solutions we need to make that happen.