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Opinion: A response to the HCA’s affordable homes programme funding allocations

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Opinion: A response to the HCA’s affordable homes programme funding allocations

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Development, Finance

Opinion: A response to the HCAs affordable homes programme funding allocations Opinion: A response to the HCAs affordable homes programme funding allocations

By Jill Haley, chief executive of Byker Community Trust and North East chair of the Chartered Institute of Housing

I think most people in the UK housing industry will join me in broadly welcoming this week’s funding announcement from the Homes and Communities Agency, which will see £850 million invested into social housing through the affordable homes programme.

This money is much-needed and it will deliver positive outcomes for many families and communities.

Building new homes for social rent offers many economic and social benefits and the social rented sector has a longstanding proven track record of delivery, supporting the local, regional and national economy in many different ways.

While investment in housing is welcome, however, it would work even more effectively as part of a coordinated national social housing plan, as opposed to simply awarding grants to a number of organisations. This is why I support the call for a cross tenure, national housing policy, which was made by Grainia Long, chief executive of the CIH, in June this year.

Government needs to understand the housing sector better, and in particular the role that housing has to play in the wider social policy debate, so that policy can focus on creating vibrant neighbourhoods where people want to live, with high quality schools, local facilities, employment and training opportunities, as well as decent homes.

It also needs to recognise that a different model and approach is required in our most disadvantaged communities, where there is a need for long-term commitment in order to ensure that the investment continues to achieve its original aims.

What this funding allocation does reflect, quite correctly, is that not all social housing in the UK is broken, which is why the targeted fund is right to focus on specific areas, addressing key issues, such as the challenges created by an aging population.

One potential issue is that these grants may not be enough to support social housing construction in the North East and other less affluent regions. This is because lower rents make it harder for the recipient organisations to recoup their share of the investment in new homes.

It is also important that we do not compromise space and quality of build. The UK currently builds the smallest houses in Europe, so the level of grant per property needs to be realistic and appropriate to the business model to ensure that it still stacks up in those areas of the country where rents are historically low.

In summary, this funding announcement is a big boost for the social housing sector and I’m sure that the organisations that have been allocated funding will use it in a constructive way, but I feel that a coordinated national policy would benefit everyone from the government right down to the tenant, ensuring more effective investment and enhanced long term value.

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