Affordable Rent 'could be extended to private developers'
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing
Affordable housing 'top priority' for young people in South East
The Government’s Affordable Rent programme could be extended to include commercial housing developers, a panel of senior housing figures heard yesterday.
A Conservative Party conference housing fringe event, staged by the think-tank Localis in association with the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), discussed how a ‘blurring of the lines’ between housing associations and private housebuilders would create a strong housing sector ‘fuelled by diversity’.
Chairing the roundtable event, Jake Berry MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Housing Minister Grant Shapps, said the Coalition’s Affordable Rent model had already proved it was possible to build affordable homes with reduced government subsidy and generate ‘more bang for your buck’.
However, a question mark remains over the long term viability of the programme due to the amount of debt housing associations have been forced to incur in order to access government funding.
One idea put forward during the discussion was for private housebuilders to work in partnership with housing associations under the Affordable Rent regime with RSLs taking on the management function leaving the developers to get on and build the homes.
The Localis/CIH event, which posed the question ‘What is the future for affordable housing?’, was attended by a wealth of senior housing figures, including Orbit chief executive Paul Tennant, Mike Kent, CEO of Bromford Group, Robin Lawler vice president of the CIH and Eamon McGoldrick, chief executive of Homes for Islington.
Mr McGoldrick spoke from the point of view of a local authority that had declined to take part in the Affordable Rent programme. He said the priority for Islington was making better use of its existing housing stock pointing to a recent survey which revealed that 44% of all social housing in the borough was under-occupied.
“We are also dealing with illegal occupation at a rate of 100 households a year – that’s an average of two a week. Getting to grips with our existing stock is the important thing we can be doing at the moment.”
Mick Kent, meanwhile, said he would like to see two-year tenancies as a ‘standard deal’ for all new social housing tenants.
“Two-year tenancies give us the chance to ask tenants what have you contributed? We can ask tenants what place they are taking in the area, what are their rights and responsibilities,” he explained.
He suggested that tenancies be reviewed at specific periods so that a ‘serious conversation’ could take place about what plans the tenants had to take up employment, training or volunteering opportunities. He believed it was vital for social housing – and those living in it – to become more aspirational.
During the event, meanwhile, the CIH and Orbit Housing Group launched plans to encourage housing leaders to work together to transform the sector.
The Change Network aims to recruit forward-thinking leaders in each region to form a forum to enable housing providers to explore, deliver and manage strategic change in their own organisations.
CIH and Orbit have invited MPs and councillors to get involved in the network to help to shape the key issues they are focused on such as localism, civic engagement, community investment and jobs, training and social enterprise. CIH has already hosted a meeting with a number of housing leaders interested in running regional forums and is keen to hear from others wishing to get involved.
Abigail Davies, CIH Assistant Director of Policy and Practice said: "At a time of reducing public investment in affordable housing and growing housing need, we must grasp this opportunity to re-think the way we do business as a sector.
"This is vital, not only to ensure we meet the needs of our communities long term, but also to build wider confidence in our sector as one that is equipped for a significant shift in the way it works. Incremental change, improvement and the ability to adapt to new challenges has always been a hallmark of the way housing organisations operate, but the future we all face means that this will no longer be enough."
Paul Tennant, Group Chief Executive of Orbit Housing Group, said: "There is a huge groundswell of momentum for change and our aim was to provide a platform for housing organisations to talk to each other about the practical steps they can take to transform their own organisations. We can't do that in isolation, and today was about encouraging others such as politicians to get involved in informing what that future should look like."