Finance Policy Advisory Group – update from November 2017 meeting

Michelle Allott, Director of Finance at Together Housing Group, gives an update on the November 2017 Finance Policy Advisory Group meeting.

5 February 2018

The Finance Policy Advisory Group (FPAG) meets regularly to discuss financial issues that can feed into the Federation’s policy development. FPAG is represented by a group of housing finance directors, with diverse representation from across the housing sector small and large, and from all corners of England. 

This meeting had an interesting and topical agenda, and below are some of the key highlights.

National Housing Fund proposal

Brendan Sarsfield (Peabody) and Helen Evans (Network) came to discuss with the Group the report drafted by Respublica. The group had a good discussion on the report which proposes the creation of a National Housing Fund with a view to building the homes we need. This would be a joint venture between the Government and a group of housing associations. The Government would provide the funding, raising and on-lending £100bn, via 50 year bonds and securing the debt against homes acquired, while housing associations would manage and maintain the homes. 

Tower block valuations

Robert Grundy (Savills) and Richard Petty (JLL) provided an update to the group on the security valuation issues that affect tower blocks since the Grenfell Tower tragedy. We debated in more detail the reasoning behind the recently added ‘abnormal uncertainty’ clause included in the valuation reports submitted to lenders and what that means for the sector and valuations. There was a lot of discussion around the need for more detailed impairment reviews and for transactional evidence in the market, as well as the potential impact of the Green Paper when published later this year.

Tax strategy

Ben Powell, Tax Partner at Deloitte, discussed tax strategies following a number of requests from HMRC for sight of documented strategies for a number of associations, even where there is no legislative requirement. The group discussed the HMRC rules around the £200m+ turnover requirements, as well as the four key elements needed for a strategy. We requested that Deloitte look to develop a template for the sector which follows these key elements. The group also discussed other continuing developments around cost sharing agreements, corporate criminal offence, construction industry VAT fraud in housing, and the AllPay VAT issue.

Value for Money proposals and Sector Scorecard

John Bryant, Policy Leader at the Federation, discussed the Value for Money consultation and the Federation’s response. Nick Yandle also provided an update to the group on the developments of the Sector Scorecard project and the launch of an independent advisory group.

Autumn budget

James Prestwich, Head of Policy at the Federation, discussed a number of housing-related announcements, including changes to Universal Credit, an update on voluntary right to buy, and the Government’s expanded housing programme.

National Housing Federation Finance Conference – 14-15 March 2018

This is a key event for anyone working in housing finance, especially for FPAG members. We discussed the themes, speakers and any lessons to be learnt from last year’s conference. We fully support this event and take an active involvement in running sessions and making sure members gain maximum value for money from attending.

Recruitment of new FPAG chair

Finally, we discussed the recruitment of a new chair for this group. Heather Ashton has been our chair for a number of years and her time and effort invested in this group has been fantastic and has definitely been appreciated by both the group and the Federation.

We hope to have a new chair in place when we next meet on 13 March.