What does the King’s Speech mean for housing associations?

14 November 2023

This year’s State Opening of Parliament was a significant occasion – it was the first King’s Speech in more than 70 years and is likely to be the last opportunity for the government to set out its legislative agenda before the next general election.

For his first State Opening, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, chose a lighter legislation package for this parliamentary session, focusing primarily on new Bills related to crime and energy, however the speech also included some housing related announcements which will impact the sector.

What was announced?

Renters (Reform) Bill

Carried over from the last parliamentary session, the Renters (Reform) Bill aims to introduce improved security and regulation in private rented homes, which is hugely welcome by the NHF. There are some changes proposed in the Bill that affect housing associations because they use assured tenancies, as set out in the 1988 Housing Act. We will continue to make the case that these changes should not adversely impact housing associations’ ability to provide decent, secure and affordable housing for their tenants.

The Bill will enter its Committee Stage later this month, where a cross-party group of MPs will listen to an array of experts and scrutinise the Bill line by line. Chief Executive of the NHF, Kate Henderson, will be giving evidence on Tuesday 14 November to outline these points.

Leasehold and Freehold Bill

This Bill aims to continue the Conservatives promise to reform the leaseholder system. It includes capping ground rents, making it cheaper and easier for leaseholders to extend their lease, extending the length of leases from 90 to 990 years, and banning leasehold for new houses.

The NHF welcomes progress being made on leasehold reform to make the system fairer and more affordable. The government has committed to working with the NHF and our members on the details of this change to understand the financial and operational implications for not-for-profit housing associations. We look forward to doing so once the legislation is published.

What wasn’t announced?

Many commentators were surprised that several rumoured Bills did not appear in the King’s Speech. Most notable was the comments made by the former Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, about restricting the use of tents for people experiencing homelessness. Earlier this month, the NHF signed a letter alongside homelessness charities calling on Braverman to urgently reconsider these proposals. Several reports now indicate that this proposal has been shelved, which is welcome news.

Within the speech, there was no commitment to building more affordable homes, which is disappointing. Within the King’s Speech, there was mention of addressing “inflation and the drivers of low growth over demands for greater spending or borrowing”. This suggests a similarly restricted approach may be coming in this month’s Autumn Statement. We have submitted a comprehensive round up of what we think the Chancellor should include, including releasing the full remaining Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, long-term funding for supported housing, funding for homelessness prevention a new 10-year, index-linked rent settlement.