Planning Reform and increasing the delivery of new homes

As part of the Budget on 29 October, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published a consultation, Planning Reform: Supporting the high street and increasing the delivery of new homes, which sets out proposed planning reforms to support high streets and make best use of land and buildings to deliver more homes.

The consultation includes a proposal to create a new permitted development right allowing commercial buildings to be demolished and redeveloped as housing and another that would allow buildings to be extended upwards.  The government believes the plans would help revive high streets and create additional housing.

The consultation also seeks views on allowing hot food takeaways to change to residential use without the need for planning permission and proposes extending existing time-limited permitted development rights.

There are a number of implications for planning authorities, and for communities.

Developing former retail premises to create mixed-use properties, including residential, will be a lucrative opportunity for developers.  Some 72% of property professionals, including investors, owners, developers, consultants, contractors, property managers and letting agents see residential development of former retail premises as a way forward[1].

The British Property Federation insist there is a place in the current planning system for permitted conversion of commercial buildings into homes,  ’Breathing life back into underused or vacant office buildings not only supports much-needed housing supply but it is vital to our town and cities’ economic and social wellbeing.’

Voices of opposition have warned that the relaxation of planning regulations is likely to result in developers bypassing requirements for affordable housing, pressure on local infrastructure and ignoring minimum housing space standards.

The Town and Country Planning Association has warned that the government’s planned expansion of permitted development will deprive local authorities of essential funding and risks creating poor living conditions.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in May 2018 concluded that “PD residential quality was significantly worse than schemes which required planning permission”[2]. Their research finds that local authorities could have lost out on up to £10.8m from ‘planning gain’ and around 1,667 affordable housing units (as of May 2018).  When local authorities were asked whether permitted development had made a positive impact on their affordable housing stock, only 4% agreed.

The Raynsford Review[3] called on ministers to act to ‘end the commitment to extend permitted development to the demolition and rebuilding of office and commercial buildings’ and to ‘return powers over permitted development to local government’.

The PD policy generates substantial controversy and has had adverse consequences in some areas which can detract from the vibrancy of high streets and can create poor quality homes.  But with a surplus of empty retail units and a scarcity of available land for housing developments there continues to be support for these developments which taps into the potential of empty buildings to offer new homes.


Please let us have your views – do you think there should be extension of permitted development rights for converting retail units? Is there a role for permitted development rights to provide homes by extending properties upwards? Do you think there should be a new permitted development right to allow hot food takeaways to change to residential use?

Let us know how you intend to respond to these questions.  Please get in touch with

The consultation document is available here and is open until 14th January 2019

Current Government consultations

A number of consultations with the sector are currently open ranging across issues such as leasehold, planning reform, consumer redress and local government finance.

If you are responding to any of the consultations, it would be helpful if you could provide us with a copy of your consultation response to help with our deliberations. If you have any queries on any of these documents please get in touch with


Considering the case for a Housing Court: call for evidence

This call for evidence seeks views and opinions from landlords, tenants and the judiciary to help the government to better understand and improve the experience of people using courts and tribunal services in property cases, including considering the case for a specialist Housing Court.

The consultation is available here and is open until 22nd January 2019


Provisional local government finance settlement 2019 to 2020: consultation

This consultation seeks views on proposals for the local government finance settlement for 2019 to 2020, in particular from representatives of local government.

The settlement includes an additional £20 million in funding for the New Homes Bonus and the baseline for growth, below which new allocations of the Bonus are not paid, will stay the same at 0.4%.

The 2019 Spending Review will confirm overall local government resourcing from 2020-21, and the Government is working towards reform in the local government finance system.  Prior to these reforms in 2020-21, the Government has also committed to publish a Green Paper on the future of Adult Social Care.


This consultation is available here and closes on 10 January 2019


Review of local authorities’ relative needs and resources

This consultation seeks views on the approach to measuring the relative needs and resources of local authorities, which will determine new baseline funding allocations for local authorities in England in 2020-21.

The consultation is open until 21 February 2019 and is available here.


Proposals for greener developments

The government is consulting on mandating biodiversity net gain in development to ensure habitats are protected and enhanced for the future.   In plans published for consultation, developers could be required to deliver a biodiversity net gain when building new housing or commercial development – meaning habitats for wildlife must be enhanced and left in a measurably better state than they were pre-development.

The consultation is available here and will run until 10 February 2019.


Reinvigorating commonhold: the alternative to leasehold ownership

The Law Commission has published its Consultation Paper on commonhold reform, “Reinvigorating commonhold: the alternative to leasehold ownership”. The paper, together with a summary and various other related documents, can be found at the following link:

This Consultation Paper seeks to address the perceived shortcomings in the legal design of the commonhold scheme and proposes reforms of commonhold as a workable alternative to leasehold, for both existing and new homes.

The consultation period runs until 10 March 2019.


In addition, MHCLG is calling for proposals on Private Shared Homeownership

The government is seeking proposals to provide new routes into affordable home ownership.  This call for proposals covers three categories:

 private shared ownership which would be primarily privately funded

  • other private affordable homeownership products which should be primarily privately funded
  • other innovative routes into homeownership which do not require government investment but may require the removal of regulatory or other barriers

These proposals should provide new routes into homeownership by leveraging both private sector funding and capacity to deliver. The government offer is to either act as a co-funder of these proposals (investing on a loan or other recoverable basis) or to act as a facilitator removing regulatory or other barriers.

The document is available here and is open until 1st February 2019


Mortar or modular? The future of construction of social housing

In this article, Ward Hadaway discusses the renewed focus on modular (formerly known as ‘prefab’) housebuilding, particularly in light of the latest Affordable Housing Supply figures, published on 22 November 2018.

The recent statistics

The Affordable Housing Supply 2017-2018 figures, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, show a staggering 78% reduction on the number of social housing units built in the last decade, with less than 6,500 social houses built in 2017.

It has also been reported the average number of households on a local authorities’ social housing waiting list is 3,500. Last month, it was revealed that just 7% of families on Greenwich Council’s waiting list had been rehomed this year, whilst 17,481 families remain on the list.

Many within the sector believe that the cancellation of council’s borrowing caps placed against their Housing Revenue Account will likely help improve these figures however, as Rory O’Hagan, director of architecture firm Assael, notes, ‘decades of under investment means councils do not have the people, skills or materials to start building hundreds of thousands of new units’. O’Hagan, amongst others in the industry, argue that turning to modern methods of construction is the solution to this problem.

‘Prefab’ rebranded

For many, references to ‘prefab’ homes conjures up negative images of low-quality, unattractive homes which were created in the post-war era as emergency housing. Modern homes which are built in this manner have therefore being rebranded as ‘modular homes’.

And it seems that the rebranding is not merely nominal. Thanks to technological advances in the digital age, factories can now manufacture precise, high-quality modular homes which are purpose-built and designed to fit in with the local area and community. Birmingham City Council, for example, recently revealed its own modular housing plans which ‘aspire to high standards of both design and delivery’.

Rosie Toogood, CEO of Legal & General Modular Homes, noted that customers currently favour traditional-style homes, and it is possible to achieve this by adding a brick façade to a modular home on-site, after fitting out kitchens, bathrooms, electric and plumbing in production, demonstrating the versatility of adding appropriate finishing touches.

Saving time and money

Mark Robinson, CEO of Scape Group, estimated that by turning to MMC, it is possible to quadruple the number of homes built with the on-site labour needed for traditionally-constructed homes. Whereas a traditional build takes around 40 weeks to complete, modular homes can be delivered within days. Producing modular homes in factories not only simplifies the supply chain, but also lessens disruption to the wider community.

Modular homes can be built on a larger and more efficient scale, leading to costs savings. Although there are currently a limited number of factories producing modular homes in the UK, it is hoped that the success of such developments coupled with investment from Homes England’s Housing Fund will encourage modular factories ‘to invest in bigger and better facilities’.

Environmental impact

It is argued that modular homes have a positive environmental impact, largely due to carbon neutral construction methods. Further, Tony Bloxham, CEO of Urban Splash, believes that the precision manufacturing of modular homes means that they are extraordinarily airtight, improving their overall energy efficiency. However, this may have its drawbacks. In July 2018, the Environmental Audit Committee published a report highlighting that modular homes were not resilient to heatwaves, and called on the government to withdraw public funding of these houses.

The Building Alliance have also criticised modular homes’ reliance on imported components due to increased air miles, arguing that traditionally-constructed houses ‘source 80% of materials domestically’.

Moving forward

On 29 November the Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire, visited the opening of a modular site in Knaresborough. He stated that there was a need to ‘challenge the way we have done things in the past’ and ‘scale up and build more, better and faster’. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors also voiced their support of modular homes to help meet the Government’s target of delivering 300,000 homes a year.

Providers of social housing have been reviewing  the implications of modular homes for some time now with the planning, securitisation, logistical, skills and scale issues they raise.  As early adopters put their toe in the water, the industry will be watching carefully to assess whether this is going to be part of the solution to the chronic undersupply problem that exists.

A Christmas message from NHC Chief Executive Jo Boaden

As 2018 draws to a close, this will be my last Christmas message as Chief Executive of the NHC, as I will be retiring next spring and handing the reins over to our Deputy Chief Executive, Tracy Harrison. I look forward to seeing her take the organisation from strength to strength.

In the years I’ve led the organisation the housing sector has seen significant change but many of the issues are constant, such as quality of housing, stigma of those who live in social housing and tenant voice.

There is now, more than ever, a sense of working in partnership to tackle these underlying issues. The Social Housing Green Paper set out a ‘new deal’ and in 2019 we will continue to promote a Northern voice on the emerging policy from the proposals.

This year has been filled with many uncertainties and with no clear picture of the political landscape we can only assure you, our members, that we will do everything we can to support you over the coming years whatever the future holds for the housing sector. We have, through you, the strength and authority to make the voice of housing in the North strongly and clearly heard.

The NHC’s influencing role has gained momentum and our voice continues to be heard at a national level. The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Housing in the North was established after I joined the NHC; over the years it has grown into a robust and effective vehicle for having our Northern voice heard in Westminster.

Our key event of the year, the annual Summit in October 2018, launched an important piece of research: The Hidden Costs of Poor-Quality Housing in the North. It highlights the issue of poor-quality housing stock within our communities, in particular, the extent of the issue in housing occupied by older people and its subsequent impact on health and social care budgets. Making existing places better is still very much a focus of our work building on the Commission for Housing in the North. We will be using this new evidence to support our submission to the 2019 spending review.

Our members are at the heart of everything we say and do and this year we conducted a detailed sample survey of our membership so that we can be as responsive as possible in shaping future services. We are grateful to the members who provided feedback and we are making plans to build on our existing services to members based on what we have been told.

Our commercial arm, Consortium Procurement, has had another great year of making savings for our members. We have welcomed new members as well as introducing three new frameworks including building, fleet, digital and healthcare services. We have introduced two new staff members to the procurement team as part of a new growth strategy and we are adding two new Procurement Reference Panel meetings to existing events which will support our members across the breadth of the UK.

The income we generate through Consortium Procurement is reinvested into our influencing work for housing in the North and by using our support and procurement services, you’re investing in the NHC. This means we can continue to connect our members and influence policy.

To help us provide great services to our members we have a strong and active Board to which this year we welcomed new members and said goodbye to other colleagues.  They all made a significant and greatly valued contribution over many years towards the success of the NHC and I would like to thank them again for their support to the organisation and to me.

This year has been very special for me, I continue to be overwhelmed and surprised to be awarded the CBE in the 2018 New Year’s Honours list and to receive the ‘Woman of the Year’ award in the 2018 Women in Housing Awards, something that was only possible because I have a brilliant and very talented team around me. It is wonderful to have this fantastic recognition for the NHC.

I’d like to finish by saying it has been a real privilege and a great pleasure to work with so many talented and committed people within the NHC, our Board, our membership and beyond and on behalf of everyone at the NHC I wish you a very Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2019.

Liz Haworth, Chief Operations & Transformation Officer (Designate), Torus reflects on the potential benefits of amalgamation and some of the lessons learned

The appetite for mergers, group structures and amalgamations within the housing sector does not appear to be slowing, fuelled by the need to realise efficiencies, increase financial resilience and to create the capacity to increase the supply of much needed new homes.

As Torus, a north-west based group comprising Golden Gates Housing Trust and Helena Partnerships, prepares to amalgamate with Liverpool Mutual Homes in January 2019, it is timely to reflect on the potential benefits of amalgamation and some of the lessons learned.

Torus was formed as a group structure in 2015, with a mission to maximise the impact of its two social landlords, increase their resilience and enhance their influence within the region. Shortly after the group was formed, the 1% rent reduction was announced, which accelerated the need to realise efficiencies and strengthen the group’s financial position.

Torus launched its Fit for the Future programme with the aim of integrating all operational areas including the in-house contractors, customer service centres, back office teams and housing management services. The integration would be based on a single operating model, and a single suite of IT systems. Perhaps most importantly, it would be underpinned by a single “One Team” culture and set of behaviours.

We encountered a range of challenges, the first being the risk that the programme would not be controlled effectively. Ensuring the right resources and the right skills linked to programme management, and establishing the right governance and controls for the programme were key to mitigating this risk, and ensuring that the objectives of the programme were delivered.

The second challenge was to ensure that operational areas freed up the resources to work on the programme. It’s important that change is an inclusive process, and that frontline teams are engaged in the design of new operating models, as well as the specification and procurement of new IT systems. However there is always the challenge of taking people away from their day jobs to work on the business rather than in the business.

The third challenge was to align IT systems across the new group. There were over 27 different IT systems and none were the same across the two landlords. We engaged more than 250 people across our business to specify our system requirements and select the new suppliers. In January 2018 we went live with 7 new group wide systems after an 18 month implementation project. Go live was not without its challenges and performance dropped in most areas whilst we trained teams on the new systems, ironed out glitches and regained the levels of operational competency that we had had previously.

Last but by no means least, there were significant people related challenges to address. In order to achieve the efficiencies needed to respond to the rent reduction, we had to reduce staffing numbers significantly. Managing this process and at the same time keeping people on board and positive about the future is a key challenge. During this period we also aligned terms and conditions, restructured all our teams, made significant changes to our people policies and retained our Investor in People Gold accreditation. This was achieved through a well-planned and executed organisational development strategy focussed on creating the right culture and behaviours for the new group.

As we plan for the imminent amalgamation with Liverpool Mutual Homes, to form a new Torus with significant scale, strength and influence across North West, this recent experience of integration and transformation and the lessons learned will be invaluable in ensuring the new group continues to build on the successful track record of both businesses. As we move forward with our transformation plans, it is vital that we do not lose sight of our core purpose, to deliver great services to our tenants and to invest in the neighbourhoods that we serve. There is a risk that larger group structures are perceived as more corporate and distant, and it is important that we continue to invest in the positive relationships we have developed with customers, communities and partner agencies in the three heartlands of Liverpool, Warrington and St Helens.

The Northern Housing Consortium announces its Chief Executive, Jo Boaden CBE, will retire next Spring

The Northern Housing Consortium has announced that its Chief Executive, Jo Boaden CBE will be retiring in May 2019 after leading the organisation since 2010.

Jo was instrumental in forming the Commission for Housing in the North, bringing together key figures within the housing sector and beyond to highlight Northern housing issues in Westminster, and to open up the debate on regeneration. She was also influential in setting up the All Party Parliamentary Group for Housing in the North, ensuring the NHC, as secretariat, brings the housing sector and parliamentarians together to discuss and debate Northern housing policy.

More recently, she led the NHC as they commissioned influential research piece, ‘The Hidden Costs of Poor Quality Housing in the North’, which highlights the increased health impacts of those living in unfit homes.

Jo has tirelessly supported the NHC’s membership to provide a strong Northern voice and was awarded the CBE in the 2018 New Year’s Honours list in recognition of her services to housing providers in the North, and won the ‘Woman of the Year’ award in the 2018 Women in Housing Awards.

The NHC Board conducted a rigorous recruitment exercise supported by external advisers, and Tracy Harrison, currently Deputy Chief Executive, has been appointed to the post of Chief Executive upon Jo’s retirement.  Prior to joining the NHC in 2006, Tracy held a variety of senior marketing and business development posts in blue chip private sector organisations, including Fast Moving Consumer Goods giant, Robert McBride, and Sage Software. Tracy has been instrumental in growing the NHC’s commercial activities, enabling the NHC to increase its influencing role.

Tom Miskell, Chair, NHC said: “In her time as Chief Executive, Jo has led a successful transformational change agenda to position the NHC as the hugely influential and respected membership body that it is today. She has focused the organisations role in bringing members together with political stakeholders and other key figures in housing.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Jo and know that she will be greatly missed by her colleagues, fellow Board members, and members alike. I’d like to thank Jo for the outstanding job that she has done and will continue to do as she leads the organisation until next year.”

Jo commented: “It has been a real privilege and a great pleasure to work with so many talented and committed people within the NHC, our Board, our membership and beyond. I will miss the NHC but will enjoy watching as Tracy takes the organisation from strength to strength.”





NHC’s new Board members


The NHC were delighted to welcome five new Directors to our Board this autumn, and to have welcomed Barbara Spicer CBE as a co-opted Director in the summer.

The Board meets on a quarterly basis to manage and to set the strategic direction of the organisation. It ensures that policies and procedures are in place to meet core values and objectives and protect the organisational assets. Membership of the Board comprises six to twelve Directors including the Chair and one Vice Chair and up to three Co-Opted Directors, each of whom may sit for a maximum term of six years.

New Directors are appointed from Full member organisations, nominations are reviewed against a skills matrix of existing Directors to ensure that they are suitable to fill any vacancies as well as fully reflecting the sectoral geographical diversity of our membership, and across equality measures.

The NHC always looks for a diverse set of skills among the Directors to ensure a high level of experience in helping to lead the organisation forward as dynamic, agile and robust for the future. The organisation has recently welcomed six Board members with a wealth of experience in finance, housing management, governance, transformation, IT, growth and much more.


Yvonne Castle, Chief Executive, Johnnie Johnson Housing

Yvonne has significant executive experience working in social housing, the private, charity and local authority sectors for many years.

An accountant by profession, her trained ‘lean’ systems thinking and project manager experience sits alongside her love of all things ‘people’ – coaching and mentoring, delivering leadership and management development programmes, motivating and encouraging others to succeed.

Yvonne joined Johnnie Johnson Housing in July 2015 to lead the organisation’s change programme, becoming Chief Executive in 2017. She is also a Board and Audit and Risk Committee Member of a specialist provider of accommodation across Bradford, Calderdale and North Yorkshire.


Simon Costigan, Chief Officer Property and Contracts, Leeds City Council

Simon has worked for Leeds City Council since leaving school and has developed a wealth of knowledge and experience during his 38-year career in housing. Over his extensive career in housing he has been involved in the development of two Estate Management Boards, three individual housing PFI schemes, and recently spent 10 years working for one of the Leeds ALMO’s where he undertook the role of Chief Executive.

Since moving back into the Council five years ago Simon took up his current role and currently manages the City’s Capital Programme, manages the responsive repairs service to the City’s social housing stock of over 55,000 properties and also manages the Internal Service Provider with an annual turnover of £65m.

Simon’s passion is working with communities to improve service outcomes and to make a real difference to the quality of life for residents living in local communities across the City.


Liz Haworth, Group Director, Torus

Liz has worked as a senior leader within the housing sector for 16 years and currently leads on service delivery and transformation for Torus, a large North West housing provider based in Warrington and St Helens. Her previous experience is with local government and the financial services sector.

Liz’s specialisms include: housing management, social investment, neighbourhood management, services for older people and supported housing, development of digital, data and IT strategies, transformation and delivery of efficiency targets, merger and integration.

She is particularly passionate about creating an organisation that is fit for the future, both in the way that it provides services to tenants, and the way it creates a working environment that is engaging and energising for employees.

Liz has served on a supported housing provider board and more recently as a Board Member of St Helens Chamber.


Ian Wardle, Chief Executive, Thirteen Group


Ian has provided leadership and direction for a range of complex services, projects and initiatives including working for two local authorities, a large multi-national PLC housebuilder, an arms-length public-private regeneration agency and currently he leads North East based housing association Thirteen Group.

Ian started his career in the North East as a graduate trainee at George Wimpey (now Taylor Wimpey) in Middlesbrough, moving onto the Sunniside Partnership in Sunderland and Director of Regeneration at Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council.

In April 2018 he took over as the secretary for Homes for the North which is an alliance of almost 20 large housing associations who want to deliver more homes across the North of England.

He cares passionately about the quality of life housing can provide. The delivery of high-quality homes and services has been the foundation of his working life and a key feature throughout his career over the last 20 years.


Lee Sugden, Chief Executive, Salix Homes

A qualified accountant, Lee has worked in housing for over 25 years in a variety of senior roles developing new and innovative solutions to housing problems. He is currently the Chief Executive of North West based housing provider Salix Homes after joining in 2014 to lead the organisation following the transfer of homes from Salford City Council, shaping the business to ensure it plays a full role in the transformation of the City of Salford.

He has played a Non-Executive role for a variety of other organisations including housing providers, local authorities and a further education college.


Barbara Spicer CBE, Chief Executive, Plus Dane

Barbara Spicer CBE is Chief Executive of Plus Dane – a housing association working across Merseyside and Cheshire with 13,500 homes.

Barbara worked for 20 years in local government, eight years of which were spent as Chief Executive of Salford City Council where she led key developments in the city, including the bid to relocate the BBC to Salford Quays at MediaCity UK, creating a development of international significance.

Passionate about the skills agenda, Barbara spent time in Westminster as interim Chief Executive of the Skills Funding Agency. She currently holds the position of Mayoral Advisor for Social Housing Growth at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and sits on the UK Capital of Culture Panel.

Her strong belief is that there are two things that are vitally important to the wellbeing of any individual: a real job with prospects and a decent home; Barbara has spent the vast majority of her career focused on trying to deliver those things for, and with, people who sometimes find it hard to deliver them for themselves, and using those two levers successfully to create sustainable communities.

Tracy Harrison speaking at EvoNorth

Our Deputy Chief Executive Tracy Harrison will be speaking at EvoNorth.

EvoNorth, taking place on 27-28 Feb 2019 is a two day conference, exhibition and networking dinner dedicated to championing the Northern Powerhouse.

Over the next four years, the Northern Powerhouse will spend £150bn on healthcare, £45bn on schools and education, £70bn on transport and connectivity and £1.4bn on housing and infrastructure, all alongside investments in other areas including science, business and innovation.

EvoNorth is encouraging collaboration by uniting leaders shaping the Northern Powerhouse to create a solid blueprint for future generations to come.

Partake in lively and engaging Q&As, dynamic round table discussions, thought-provoking and inspiring workshops and exhibitions, participate in powerful leader debates and have your voice heard.

Discussing topics from across these key focuses;

  • Transport and Connectivity
  • Business, Innovation and Investment
  • Science and Technology
  • Housing and Infrastructure
  • Education, Skills and Employment
  • Health, Social Care and Wellbeing

Fuel the conversation: visit the website here.

Consultations following Budget 2018

On the day of Budget 2018, government launched a number of consultations with the sector to support its target for housing supply to reach 300,000 a year.

If you are responding to any of the consultations, it would be helpful if you could provide us with a copy of your consultation response.


Changes to planning policy and guidance including the standard method for assessing local housing need

The publication of new household projections by the Office for National Statistics has led to a significant reduction in the overall numbers generated by the standard method for assessing local housing need.  This consultation sets out proposals to update planning practice guidance on housing need assessment to be consistent with increasing housing supply.

This consultation also proposes clarifications of national planning policy on: housing land supply; the definition of deliverable; and appropriate assessment.

The consultation document is available here and is open until 7th December 2018.


Planning reform: supporting the high street and increasing the delivery of new homes

Building on existing planning reforms, the government is consulting on new and amended permitted development rights and changes to use classes, including to support the regeneration of the high street and to extend existing buildings upwards to create new homes.



  • Do you think there is a role for permitted development rights to provide homes by extending properties upwards?
  • Do you think there should be a new permitted development right to allow hot food takeaways to change to residential use?

Let us know how you intend to respond to these questions.  Please forward your comments to

The consultation document is available here and is open until 14th January 2019


Private shared homeownership: call for proposals

The government is seeking proposals to provide new routes into affordable home ownership.  This call for proposals covers three categories:

 private shared ownership which would be primarily privately funded

  • other private affordable homeownership products which should be primarily privately funded
  • other innovative routes into homeownership which do not require government investment but may require the removal of regulatory or other barriers

The consultation document is available here and is open until 1st February 2019

If you have any queries on any of these documents please get in touch with



Budget 2018 – a look behind the headlines

Tracy Harrison, Deputy Chief Executive, Northern Housing Consortium

Last month’s Budget delivered some welcome certainties and a shift in sentiment from government towards working with the social housing sector as part of the solution. The one clear certainty was the commitment to the national supply target of 300,000 new builds a year, this was despite the latest ONS household projections which threatened to derail house-building targets. Less certain was any commitment to public sector investment with the tantalising possibility of austerity ‘coming to an end’.

The Budget confirmed that the Housing Revenue Account cap was to be abolished on 29 October

The abolition of the Housing Revenue Account cap was the signal that councils can get back into the house-building business. For the first time in many years, councils will be able to prepare longer-term HRA business plans.  Also, longer term funding for housing associations gives providers certainty in their business planning. In the previous few years the absence of a rent settlement and the LHA cap had contributed towards preventing this longer-term planning.

This marks a new and welcome partnership between government and the social housing sector to build social housing.

But it also sets a challenge to councils to bring forward home-building plans. Councils may have lost dedicated housing functions and have fewer specialist staff with housing services being absorbed into place-based directorates. For many, skills and capacity shortage could be a principal barrier to growth in direct local authority delivery.

Investment to deliver more homes, including an extra £500m for the Housing Infrastructure Fund

Everyone can agree that it is imperative that more homes are built in the right places. It was therefore welcome that the Budget announced an extra £500m to pay for housing infrastructure. But behind the headlines, is the detail that 80% of funding across all Government schemes for house building will be going to areas of “high affordability.” This will not deliver the vision of a housing market that works for everyone.

Support for Homeownership

The Budget confirmed a new Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme and extended Stamp Duty Land Tax relief to all qualifying shared ownership properties (with a launch of a Call for Evidence on Private Shared Ownership).  It also launched a consultation on new permitted development rights to allow upwards extensions above commercial premises and to allow commercial buildings to be demolished and replaced with homes (Planning reform: supporting the high street and increasing the delivery of new homes).

There is a concern that policies continue to underline the prevailing view that social housing is a stepping stone to home ownership, rather than recognising that it is the right choice for some, and this doesn’t help with stigmatising social housing tenants.

There are estates in the North which almost certainly meet the definition of affordable but fall so far below modern standards there is, not just a stigmatising of residents, but a loss of hope.  Residents either put up with this, or move to the far less stable private rented sector.  There they find tenancies that could be less stable and quality which is in many cases below decent standards with 354,000 private rented sector properties being unfit in the North – see The Hidden costs of Poor Quality Housing in the North.

A combination of new council house building and investment in quality of existing stock will, over time, create capacity to deliver as much as 20-30,000 social rented homes a year. Sir Oliver Letwin’s review of build out rates (published on the day of Budget) has also confirmed that delivering a wider range of tenures on sites improves the rate at which new homes are built – another reason to justify increased public investment on social rented housing.