On 20 April, Communities that Work and the National Housing Federation joined directors from 16 housing associations and one ALMO at a roundtable discussion with senior officials from the government’s Cities and Local Growth Unit to discuss the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
The Fund will begin in March 2022 and commit to an average £1.5bn annual spend to ‘level up and create opportunity across the UK for people and places’. It will replace investment from European Structural Funding in many areas but there is an opportunity to streamline delivery and set new priorities. The investment framework is due to be published in spring 2021 and funding for the portion of the Fund targeted at the places most in need will be allocated at the next Spending Review.
Discussions focused on the potential for partnerships and the opportunities to target the Fund in communities that need it most. Participants shared many examples of how the social housing sector is central to economic recovery and is focused on employment for local people. Officials from the Cities and Local Growth Unit were impressed with the breadth of employment services and keen to understand how the Fund can best harness what housing associations can offer.
The Fund could be a key lever to deliver longer-term prosperity for families and neighbourhoods, and to truly ‘build back better’. The NHF, alongside Communities that Work, has made the case to the government that the housing sector could make the most effective use of the Fund through direct opportunities to engage in the investment framework. This would maximise opportunities to lever operational and funding partnerships including match funding.