The West Midlands Regional Committee brings together leaders from housing associations across the region to help shape and deliver the Federation’s work both nationally and in the West Midlands region. Below is an update from Boris Worrall, Group Chair.
Has there ever been a more volatile and unpredictable political climate? Certainly not in my lifetime. But amid the turmoil and tension, housing associations are continuing to do what they do best – building new homes and providing great places for local people to live. Whatever the post Brexit world throws at us, we are confident that we can carry on doing just that.
Continuity was a key theme at the October meeting of the National Housing Federation West Midlands regional committee. Housing associations have stepped up delivery by around 10% in response to the stable and positive investment and policy environment of recent years. With huge uncertainty ahead, now is not the time for radical changes or too many new ideas from the Government.
There was strong agreement across members that what matters now is that we continue to deliver as many homes as we can, ensure we invest in current properties to ensure tenants are safe and living in decent homes, and tackle issues such as homelessness and wider community investment priorities. We believe that even with the potential for economic challenges and a housing market downturn spreading from London and the South East, we can still continue to do that as long as the fundamentals we are working with do not change. In fact, as a sector we remain ‘counter-cyclical’ and are therefore well-placed to respond if economic stimulus is needed. So our plea to politicians of all persuasions is to stick with what’s working for now. Continuity is key.
On this theme, we spent significant time discussing the outline proposals for a ‘Right to Buy’ for Shared Ownership. There is strong demand for Shared Ownership in the Midlands and it’s a great product which is both affordable and aspirational in enabling people on incomes of typically £20k-£35k to access a home of their own. Housing associations across the region already provide hundreds of people across the region with this opportunity each year; and we want to do more. However, there are some significant and complex issues to work through around any ‘right’ to shared ownership or conditions attached to grant, and we need the Government to really consider the evidence, impact and timing. As I said earlier, now is the time for continuity and certainty rather than radical change.