Homes England Guest Blog

Remember that there are increasing opportunities for affordable housing through the remaining unallocated funding within the SOAHP – Shared Ownership Affordable Housing Programme. Partners are therefore encouraged to speak to Homes England Contract and Relationship Managers at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss project requirements and grant needs to be taken through continuous market engagement (CME).  It is also worth noting that the details of Social Rent and HRA headroom are still subject to ministerial sign off. Homes England will share updates with partners in the coming weeks and months.

Further to the SOAHP, Homes England has reopened bidding for the Department of Health – Care & Support Specialist Housing fund (CASSH) through continuous market engagement (CME).  Under CASSH, CME capital grants will be provided to support and accelerate the development of specialist affordable housing which meets the needs of older people and adults with disabilities or mental health problems. As this will be a continuation of the existing fund the funding requirements will remain unchanged from previous bid rounds, with a published prospectus already in place. Funding will be made available over the next three financial years to 2020/21. As with SOAHP, bidding is through IMS.  See: If you would like to know more then please speak to Homes England Contract and Relationship managers at the earliest possible opportunity.

In addition, Homes England is pleased to be soon launching the Community Housing Fund. The £163 million fund will soon be available to community-led groups across England to support delivery of new affordable homes up to 31st March 2020. Community-led housing groups will be able to bid for revenue funding to build capacity in their organisations and to assist them with the costs involved in the pre-development stage of projects. Local Authorities will also be able to bid for funds to support capacity-building activities for community-led groups in their areas and bid for capital funding for small-scale infrastructure projects, such as roundabouts or pumping stations, to unlock sites that the community can then develop for housing. A second phase of the fund is to be launched later this year by Homes England for capital funding to develop community-led affordable housing schemes.

Throughout the North, we are already supporting community led housing activity and we know that communities throughout the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber are mobilising behind this issue. We would like to work with partners to collectively support, resource and facilitate more forms of community led development. The Community Housing Fund is only just part of the picture, let us know if you would like to find out more about the support on offer for community led housing development from national and local organisations with funding for the establishment of organisations, revenue support for project development or peer to peer learning.

Across all programmes, Homes England is working to develop strategic partnerships to accelerate delivery in early years, looking to build the pipeline of schemes and sites using our flexibilities, like the land acquisition tranche, and to see a step change in affordable housing delivery through new ways of working and aligning investment and land opportunities. However, our priority is to build the programme now, taking advantage of the available funding and accelerating delivery this year and next. Talk to us about your sites so we can work together to help shape the proposal.

Whether you are a Local Authority wanting to support a new community organisation with their housing ambitions or a Housing Association working up a new scheme – Get in touch with us to talk about funding needs, tenure mix, revenue or capital support.

For more information email Victoria Keen.

Another Successful Resident Involvement Conference

Over the past year Government policy has understandably turned to focus on the social housing sector and particularly the needs of residents. Against this backdrop, a strong attendance of over 100 tenants and housing staff attended the National Resident Involvement Conference in York to make sense of the recent changes in housing policy as well as casting an eye to the future in anticipating what changes are expected.

Joint-Chair Eamon McGoldrick, Managing Director at the National Federation of Arms-Length Management Organisations, began proceedings by looking at the positive responses landlords have made in refocussing on tenant engagement, co-regulation, and health and safety. Eamon’s presentation outlined that these welcome changes were in many ways preparation for a ‘new order’ where landlords would be required to be more transparent, would be more regulated, and would have to take ‘complete ownership’ of new build and refurbishment schemes.

Building on the theme of transparency, Jacqui McKinlay, Chief Executive, Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS) was invited discuss her organisations role in promoting accountability and involvement in governance and scrutiny. Central to this to championing these improvements was appreciating that transparency is a long-term commitment and not just about processes. Also important was getting the balance right between national and local leadership, but with a consensus on what transparency meant and how it can improve resident experience. Finally, Jacqui put forward a template for making change happen; talking the audience through setting standards, raising performance within those standards, and finally using effective oversight to ensure that standards are met.

Delegates took centre stage in the morning’s closing session where Yvonne Davies, Managing Director at Scrutiny and Empowerment Partners Ltd and event organiser led the hall through an interactive session. A series of questions were posed to the group covering a range of issues. Firstly, what must a ‘Transparency Charter’ include if it was to improve the tenant customer experience? Secondly, how can tenants keep up to date with the breadth of information available; whether from think tanks, policy makers, or regulators? And finally, with resident involvement as important as ever, what were the barriers people felt were inhibiting them from playing a role in the decision making of their Housing Association. In the group responses to each question, it was clear that ‘access’ was an integral factor. Easy access to information to improve transparency and knowledge, and access to the decision-making process through improved resources.

Throughout the day a series of workshops had been arranged to enable delegates to learn best practice from across the region. In the morning, the conference heard from organisations who had received recognition for their governance models, youth participation schemes, and widely praised estate-based engagement activities. Following lunch, attendees gained insight and advice from colleagues who were currently reviewing their involvement strategies, whilst also hearing from the frontline on how data innovations and national issues such as the rollout of Universal Credit was impacting on communicating with residents.

The conference closed with a Key Note session provided by Shelter as part of their ‘Big Conversation on the Future of Social Housing’. Rachel Casey, Policy Engagement Manager, and Deborah Gabie, Policy Manager, began by introducing the Big Conversation to delegates as an independent commission setting out what’s wrong with social housing, what’s good with it, and what is needed for the future. The audience heard how a combination of poor housing conditions, stigma, and a lack of tenant influence had compelled Shelter to launch this piece of work which would report back in November 2018. Ultimately, the Commission wished to see a bigger and better social housing sector that amplifies the voices of tenants as well as the broader community, something which all present could agree on.

Consultation on banning combustible cladding

On 18 June, the Housing Secretary announced a consultation on banning the use of combustible materials on the external walls of high-rise residential buildings.

The consultation is inviting views to revise the building regulations to ban the use of combustible materials in the inner leaf, insulation and cladding that are used in external wall systems on these buildings. The government is legally required to consult on substantive changes to the buildings regulations before any change in the law.

Dame Judith Hackitt, in the review of fire safety and building regulations, recommended that a simpler but more robust approach to the construction and on-going management of high-rise residential buildings was needed. The commitment to consult on banning combustible material was originally made on 17 May 2018 on the day the final report of Dame Judith Hackitt was published.

See details of the open consultation on proposals to ban combustible materials on the external walls of high-rise residential buildings.

The NHC is keen to hear from member organisations with their views on the consultation questions. Please get in touch by 31 July 2018 if you have any views. Contact Karen Brown.

The Raynsford Review of Planning

The Raynsford Review of Planning has been set up to identify how the government can reform the English planning system to make it fairer, better resourced and capable of producing quality outcomes as well as new homes.

It is being led by a task force chaired by former planning minister Nick Raynsford.

Evidence is being collected over an 18-month period and a final report published in late autumn 2018.

The Raynsford Review seeks to provide practical and comprehensive policy guidance to overcome these issues in a way that is mutually beneficial to all stakeholders.

Aims for the project included’:

  • Engaging constructively with politicians and council officers, communities, housing providers, developers, consultants and academics — all those interested in the built environment — about how to deliver better placemaking through a fairer and more effective planning system.
  • Setting out a new vision for planning in England and rebuild trust in the planning process by communicating with the public as well as professionals.

An Interim Report has been published – available here – with nine propositions. The review team is seeking feedback on the Interim Report’s nine propositions by Monday 16th July. Please email with your responses.