A new bursary scheme will offer awards of £500 to tenants to support learning opportunities

The Unlocking Success Bursary Scheme, funded through the Northern Housing Consortium Charitable Trust, will award bursaries of £500 to help tenants develop their learning and skills to support their future employment.

The Northern Housing Consortium has launched the Unlocking Success Bursary Scheme to support residents in social housing to further develop their skills and to celebrate the positive impact that social housing makes within our communities.

The bursary covers a study period of up to a year and can support your tenants with the cost of the learning itself, or if they are already involved in an area of learning it can help to fund books, equipment, travel costs, childcare or other living costs that will help them to complete a period of learning.

To be eligible to apply for the bursary, tenants must be aged 16 or over and housed by a social landlord. They must be using the bursary to enhance their skills to further their development.

This can be at any level. Applications must be received via the social landlord before the 16th March 2020.

Find out more by going to bursary.northern-consortium.org.uk

There will be up to twenty bursaries available each year and applicants can apply on more than one occasion if they are able to demonstrate further requirements for support.

Spotlight on the party manifestos and what they mean for the housing sector in the North

As the parties publish their manifestos, we look at what their pledges mean for the housing sector in the North.

A criticism often made of party pledges is that there is little to distinguish one manifesto from another.  This is not a criticism that holds up this time and with multibillion-pound pledges coming thick and fast and promises of a Green Revolution and Social House Building Revolution, NHC Senior Policy Advisor Karen Brown has looked at the main party manifestos to see where they diverge or converge on housing policies.

Here’s a summary of the key housing pledges in the three main English parties’ manifestos.

Raising Housing Standards

Climate Change

Labour’s manifesto “It’s Time for a Real Change” launches a Green New Deal and, ambitiously, brings forward the target to achieve net-zero emissions within the 2030s with a pledge to deliver nearly 90% of electricity and 50% of heat from renewable and low-carbon sources by 2030.

They aim to introduce a zero-carbon homes standard for all new homes and upgrade almost all the UK’s existing 27 million homes to the highest energy-efficiency standards with the aim of eliminating fuel poverty.  There would be support for the roll out of heat pumps, solar hot water and hydrogen and investment in district heat networks using waste heat.

The Liberal Democrat Party have included an emergency ten-year programme to “reduce energy consumption from all the UK’s buildings, cutting emissions and fuel bills and ending fuel poverty” in their manifesto “Stop Brexit: Build a Brighter Future”.    They would require all new homes to be built to a zero-carbon standard by 2021 and Passivhaus standard by 2025 and would pilot a new subsidised Energy-Saving Homes scheme which would provide free retrofits for low-income homes.   A zero-carbon heat strategy would see the phased installation of heat pumps in homes off the gas grid and they would aim to insulate all of Britain’s homes by 2030.

Funding for this will come from a £5 billion investment for a new Green Investment Bank to use public money to attract private investment for zero-carbon priorities.  They plan to impose a statutory duty on all local authorities to produce a Zero Carbon Strategy.

The Conservative manifesto, ‘Get Brexit Done Unleash Britain’s Potential’ restates the existing target of reaching Net Zero by 2050 with investment in clean energy solutions and green infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions.  This promises to lower energy bills funded through capital investment of a ‘social housing decarbonisation fund’ over the next four years.  Existing pledges include the Future Homes Standard to decarbonise new homes from 2025, but is silent on the retrofitting of existing homes.

Building Safety

A Labour government would introduce a £1 billion Fire Safety Fund to “fit sprinklers and other fire safety measures in all high rise council and housing association tower blocks, enforce the replacement of Grenfell-style cladding, while introducing mandatory building standards and guidance, inspected and enforced by fully trained Fire and Rescue Service fire safety officers.”

The Conservatives had already committed to implementing and legislating for all the recommendations of the Hackitt Review and the first phase of the independent inquiry.  They have pledged to continue the testing process of materials used in cladding.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto is silent on building safety and fire prevention.

Standards in the Private Rented Sector

The Labour leadership is determined to shift power away from landlords to tenants.  Labour plans to introduce rent controls by capping rents with inflation; cities would also be given powers to cap rents further. New open-ended tenancies would provide security and stop ‘no fault’ evictions and new minimum standards would be enforced through nationwide licensing and tougher sanctions on landlords. A renters’ union would be set up across the country to allow renters to “organise and defend their rights.”

Labour would also end discriminatory rules that require landlords to check people’s immigration status or that allow them to exclude people on housing benefit.

Labour backed down on plans to develop a new Right to Buy scheme for private tenants to buy their rented properties from landlords but the manifesto includes powers and funding for councils to buy homes from private landlords.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto pledges mandatory licensing to improve protections against rogue landlords.  It also suggests increasing minimum energy efficiency standards and a new Help to Rent scheme with government-backed tenancy deposit loans for all first-time renters under 30.  Longer tenancies of three years or more “with an inflation-linked annual rent increase built in”  would aim to give tenants security and limit rent hikes.

The Conservatives ‘Better Deal for Renters’ confirms that they are standing by their proposal to abolish ‘no fault’ evictions.  This also includes a proposal to require only one ‘lifetime’ deposit which moves with the tenant. This will go alongside strengthening rights of possession for landlords.

Decent Homes

Under Labour homes would be built to higher standards according to a new Decent Homes programme. Tenants would be empowered to impact the management of social housing and regeneration would be carried out according to their needs.  Labour wants housing associations to be much clearer and closer to their social purpose.

Under Liberal Democrats, standards of social housing would be made clearer and regulations to protect renters would be enforced. They aim to fully recognise tenant panels so that renters have a voice in landlord governance and require complaints to be dealt with in a timely manner.

The Conservative manifesto pledges to bring forward a Social Housing White Paper which will set out measures to empower tenants and support the continued supply of social homes. This will include measures to provide greater redress, better regulation and improve the quality of social housing.

Welfare Reform

Labour will scrap Universal Credit and will design an alternative system including an emergency package of reforms to mitigate some of the worst features of UC while a replacement system is developed.  The benefit cap, bedroom tax and two-child limit would also be scrapped.

Under a new system, plans would be for fortnightly payments as well as paying the housing element directly to landlords. Payments would be split so that women in abusive relationships can still receive the “child element” of the payment.

The Liberal Democrats would reform Universal Credit by reducing the wait for the first payment from five weeks to five days as well as removing the two-child limit, bedroom tax and the benefits cap. Local Housing Allowance would be raised in line with average rents in an area.

The Conservatives will continue the roll-out of Universal Credit, and will end the benefit freeze, while making sure it pays to work more hours.

Capacity of Local Services and Local Powers

Levelling-up across the regions

Labour’s manifesto includes a pledge to “level-up across the country” by ensuring investment is evenly spread across the regions as well as bringing about a “radical decentralisation of power.” This will be supported by the launch of a Local Transformation Fund in each region to fund infrastructure projects.  A National Transformation Fund Unit would be based in the North of England and would provide a regional voice in Whitehall.

They aim to bring services back into the remit of local councils. This would entail making funding for local authorities to be more “reactive” and respond to sharp rises in demand for services. They aim to “rebalance power in the planning system by giving local government greater freedom to set planning fees and by requiring the climate and environmental emergency to be factored into all planning decisions.”

The Liberal Democrat manifesto also plans to give local authorities and regions the powers to make decisions about their areas with a capital £50 billion Regional Rebalancing Programme. They aim to “continue to champion investment in the Northern Powerhouse.”  They pledge to “end the continual erosion of local government funding” and commit to a real increase in local government funding over key levers of economic development such as housing.

The Conservative manifesto continues the commitment made in the last Queen’s Speech for full devolution across England with the publishing of an English Devolution White Paper next year.  Through bodies like the Northern Powerhouse, there will be a drive for greater levels of foreign investment into the UK, promoting towns and cities.  As part of plans for full devolution proposals will be invited from local areas for growth bodies like the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.


The Conservative manifesto confirmed its commitment to regenerating towns with the Towns Fund going to an initial 100 towns to improve their local economy.  They have committed to ‘Infrastructure First’ by amending planning rules so that the infrastructure – roads, schools, GP surgeries – comes before people move into new homes and a new £10 billion Single Housing Infrastructure Fund will help deliver it faster.

The Liberal Democrats have committed to reform planning to ensure developers are required to provide essential local infrastructure from affordable homes to schools, surgeries and roads alongside new homes. They will set up a £2 billion Rural Services Fund to enable the co-location of services in local hubs around existing local infrastructure.

Labour would set up a Local Transformation Fund in each English region to be used exclusively to fund infrastructure projects decided at a local level.

Access to Affordable Housing

Labour plans to create a new Department for Housing, make Homes England a more accountable national housing agency and put councils in the driving seat.  They would introduce an English Sovereign Land Trust to be able to buy land cheaper and use this public land for low-cost housing. This would also include new “use it or lose it” taxes on developers for stalled housing developments and make brownfield sites the priority for development while protecting the green belt.

Under Labour the definition of “affordable” would be modified so that it is based on local incomes.

Labour’s planned social housebuilding programme would aim to build more than a million homes over a decade with council housebuilding at the forefront. Their annual target by the end of the next Parliament is 150,000 council and social homes, with 100,000 of these built by councils for social rent in the “biggest council housebuilding programme in more than a generation.” The manifesto confirms these homes would be made available in every area.

Labour plan to build more low-cost homes reserved for first-time buyers in every area and build new discount homes with prices linked to local incomes. Help to Buy would be reformed to focus on first-time buyers on “ordinary” incomes. They also aim to end the sale of new leasehold properties, abolish unfair fees and conditions, and give leaseholders the right to buy their freehold at a price they can afford.

To stop the ‘haemorrhage’ of low-cost homes, they would end the Right to Buy.

The Liberal Democrats have committed to new direct spending on housebuilding to help build 300,000 homes a year by 2024, including 100,000 social homes.  They would devolve full control of Right to Buy to local councils and introduce a new Rent to Own model for social housing where rent payments give tenants an increasing stake in the property, owning it outright after 30 years.

The Conservative manifesto commits to renewing the Affordable Homes Programme, in order to support the delivery of “hundreds of thousands of affordable homes”.

Conservatives continue their progress towards a target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, while continuing to protect the Green Belt.  They have not set a specific social housing target, as the other two parties have done. They also propose to make the planning system simpler and support modern methods of construction.

They offer support particularly for first time buyers with new fixed rate mortgages which reduce the level of deposit required.  They will offer more homes to local families, enabling councils to use developers’ contributions via the planning process to discount homes in perpetuity by a third for local people or key workers.  They have extended the Help to Buy scheme from 2021 to 2023 and will review new ways to support home ownership following its completion.

As already announced, they intend to reform shared ownership, making it fairer and more transparent and will set a single standard for all housing associations.

Leasehold reforms will continue including implementing a ban on the sale of new leasehold homes, restricting ground rents to a peppercorn, and providing necessary mechanisms of redress for tenants.

The manifesto continues the commitment to a Right to Buy for all council tenants and the voluntary Right to Buy scheme agreed with housing associations.


The Labour manifesto plans to end rough sleeping within five years through a national plan by a prime minister-led taskforce. Hostels would be expanded and upgraded with 8,000 additional homes to be made available for people with a history of rough sleeping. It is outlined that Local Housing Allowance would be raised in line with the 30th percentile of local rents and an additional £1 billion a year would be earmarked for councils’ homelessness services.

They plan to repeal the Vagrancy Act and amend anti-social behaviour legislation to stop the law being used against those who are homeless.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto includes a plan to introduce a “somewhere safe to stay” legal duty to ensure that everyone who is at risk of sleeping rough is provided with emergency accommodation with an assessment of their needs and ensure that local authorities have the resources to deliver the Homelessness Reduction Act as well as providing accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse. They would also scrap the Vagrancy Act.

The Conservatives have already pledged to fully enforce the Homelessness Reduction Act.   They also aim to end rough sleeping by the end of the next Parliament by expanding pilots and programmes such as the Rough Sleeping Initiative and Housing First and working to bring together local services to meet the health and housing needs of people sleeping on the streets.

To sum up…..

All the parties are talking about the need for more housing and it is positive – and a huge change in emphasis since the last election in 2017 – that the need for more social housing is so high on the political agenda.  There is a welcome commitment by the Conservatives to extend the Affordable Homes Programme, but no detail is provided on what this will look like.    Party commitments need to be set in the context of independent assessment that 140,000 additional affordable homes are needed each year in England; of which around 19,000 must be delivered in the North.

All the main parties are talking about regional priorities and Northern issues, with promises to ‘level-up’ the regions, having started as a Conservative pledge, it has now spread to the Labour manifesto.

The Labour Manifesto is the most radical on social housing delivery, standards in the private rented sector, and support for those on low income and benefits.   The Conservative Manifesto confirms a continuation of the policy programme that was underway prior to the election with a focus on new build housing and home ownership.   The Liberal Democrat Manifesto includes ambitions for delivery of social housing funded by investment from a £130 billion capital infrastructure budget.

All parties have targets for net zero carbon emissions from homes.  The ambitions for reducing emissions from houses are challenging and will require investment from an incoming government.  We will look forward to seeing the detail of this and how the housing sector can lead the way on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

With promised investment in public services across the board, this signals an end to a policy of austerity which will be necessary to deliver the council-house building revolution and planning reform which the main parties agree is needed to end the housing crisis.

The NHC will use the election and its aftermath to continue to make the case for housing in the North. Look out for our on-the-day election results briefing on Friday 13th December.

These are our ‘asks’ to an incoming government:

  • Expand the affordable homes programme and ensure it continues to support the North to create great homes and places.
  • Enable the North to raise the quality of our existing housing stock through a flexible regeneration fund and target support to housing providers to meet essential net-zero carbon emissions targets.
  • Create capacity in our councils to deliver on their housing ambitions.


Our new Corporate Plan

We are excited to launch the NHC’s new Corporate Plan, bringing together our vision to drive and deliver five clear and ambitious objectives over the next three years.

Created using the results from a recent member perception survey, developed with staff at all levels and agreed by our Board, the NHC’s Corporate Plan delivers a strong message to members of our commitment to serving them and to achieving housing policy that really works for the North.

Our Vision has been reinvigorated to emphasise our vital influencing work alongside the outstanding services we will continue to provide for members.

At the heart of our plan for the next three years is our connection to members at all levels. We aim to strengthen and deepen our understanding of their interests. The launch of a new online portal, ‘MyNHC’ will give members better oversight of how their organisation works with us and help them bespoke their use of NHC services. We will continue to broaden the range of event types we offer to meet our members’ changing needs.

A key objective within our Corporate Plan is an unrivalled ability to shape and deliver services that add value for members. A recent example of this is our new and exciting Consortium Procurement Construction (CPC) brand, expanding our offering to members to include a full suite of construction frameworks. This was borne out of feedback from members, and we will build on this and our other solutions and services, to best support our members.

We know members recognise the NHC’s vital role as the Voice of Housing in the North. Over the next three years we aim to leverage the strong collective voice of over 140 Northern members (93% of local authorities, ALMOs and registered providers of social housing) to increase our influence and ability to make housing policy work for the North. Two objectives reflect this redoubled focus on influencing. We aim to craft messages and build an evidence base on the issues that matter to members and ensure we continue to reach and connect with decision makers and policy shapers. Our members can expect to continue to be involved in the creation and pursuit of our core policy objectives and we will build the evidence through conducting timely and influential research.

Our unique not-for-profit business model is brought to life within the plan, demonstrating how surpluses generated from our procurement solutions and competitive membership fees are invested back into our influencing work in the North. This solid financial footing sees us maximising the value and savings for members as we expand into new sectors and geographies. This enables us to bring investment back into our member support and influencing activity.

We worked with staff to refresh and review our corporate values to ensure they are owned and “lived” by everyone within the organisation. We are: ‘member focussed’, ‘collaborative’, ‘innovative’ and ‘supportive’ and we believe these values are the glue to delivering our Corporate Plan. The wellbeing and development of our staff is a key part of all our objectives, and we continue to undertake a series of initiatives to support them.

As stated earlier, at the heart of all our activity is a deep understanding of members’ needs. We operate in highly uncertain times, and we will continue to review our plan and objectives to ensure we remain relevant and receptive over the next three years and beyond.


Spending Round 2020/21

Tracy Harrison, Chief Executive at the Northern Housing Consortium has written to Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rishi Sunak MP about the fast-tracked one-year Spending Round this September. The NHC will continue to make the case for these priorities and will keep members up to date with any further developments.

Northern Housing Consortium 2019 Election of Directors

Northern Housing Consortium
2019 Election of Directors

The overall management and strategic direction of the Northern Housing Consortium is entrusted to the Board of Directors who are subject to election each year from Full Member organisations.

Under the Consortium’s governance arrangements, all nominations for the position of Director will be reviewed by the Board (or their nominated representatives), against a Skills Set for Directors to ensure that they meet the Board’s requirement to fill any vacancies – the Skills Set and Board Director Role Profile are enclosed in the Board Director Nomination Pack.

In accordance with a procedure agreed by the Board, and to ensure a regional geographical balance across the Northern region, we are seeking nominations for a total of one new Director place to be filled for the three-year period 2019-2022.

There are also three Directors who are retiring this year but who wish to stand for re-election they are as follows:

1. Greg Robinson, Assistant Chief Executive (Resources), Incommunities
2. Steve Close, Chief Executive, Together Housing
3. Paul Fiddaman, Group Chief Executive, Karbon Homes

NB The Board have confirmed their support for the re-election of the above candidates.

Should the number of successful nominations exceed the vacancies available, a ballot will be arranged and the results announced for formal approval by the Full Members at the Consortium’s Annual General Meeting on 14th November, 2019 in York.

A nomination form is included in the Board Director Nomination Pack & Nomination Form 2019, and I invite you to consider and make nominations of candidates no later than 23rd August 2019. Please note that you can nominate more than one candidate but in doing so you should note the conditions for nominating candidates included in the Nomination Pack.

An application form can be obtained from Kay Wiseman This must be completed by the nominee and returned with the nomination form no later than 23rd August 2019.

If you would like to discuss your nomination for the position of Director, please contact:-

Tracy Harrison
Chief Executive
T: 07809659492
E: tracy.harrison@northern-consortium.org.uk

Spring Statement 2019 – a look behind the headlines


The Spring Statement on 13 March, delivered amidst a flurry of Brexit votes, was accompanied by several noteworthy housing and planning messages intended to support the government’s continued ambition to raise housing supply to reach 300,000 a year on average.

A three-year Spending Review will be launched before the summer recess and will be concluded alongside an autumn Budget. The 2019 Spending Review will have a focus on the outcomes achieved for the money invested in public services.  In  that context, alongside the Spring Statement, a revised Public Spending Public Value Framework was released which would guide decisions in the Spending Review.

Future Homes Standard – There will be a consultation this year on what could be a wide-ranging standard to apply from 2025 so that new build homes are future-proofed with low carbon heating – this could tackle previous concerns the Chancellor has expressed about new-build quality.

A consultation on Infrastructure Finance was published seeking views on how the government can best support private infrastructure investment in the context of the UK’s changing relationship with the European Investment Bank.  It also asks if the government should consider alternative forms of infrastructure finance support for housing associations in the context of the end of European Investment Bank funding.

The Chancellor reiterated the government’s commitment to publishing a National Infrastructure Strategy – the first of its kind – setting out the government’s priorities for economic infrastructure and responding to recommendations in the National Infrastructure Commission’s National Infrastructure Assessment.

Letwin Review – the government issued its response to the review of build-out rates on large sites conducted by Sir Oliver Letwin. It stated there was ‘widespread acceptance of Sir Oliver’s analysis across the sector’ and confirms the findings ‘that it is the market absorption rate that determines the rate at which developers build out large sites’. Additional planning guidance on housing diversification will be published shortly.  A focus on evolving the existing system of developer contributions and gathering evidence to explore the case for further reform was confirmed.

It was announced that an Accelerated Planning Green Paper would be published ‘later this year’ on how greater capacity and capability, performance management and procedural improvements can accelerate the end-to-end planning process.  This will also draw on the Rosewell Review, which made recommendations to reduce the time taken to conclude planning appeal inquiries.  Government will also consider the case for further reforms to the compulsory purchase regime.

Permitted development – Government will implement an immediate package of permitted development right measures in the spring, with the more complex matters, including on upward extensions, covered in a further package of regulations in the autumn.  There will be a range of reforms in this area and government will shortly publish “Better Planning for High Streets”.  This will set out tools to support local planning authorities in reshaping high streets, particularly with the use of compulsory purchase and local development orders.

The Spring Statement is an opportunity for the Chancellor to respond to the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) forecasts for the growth and the public finances. The OBR now includes as a policy risk the expansion of right-to-buy to tenants of housing associations given the costs of discounts would fall on the Treasury and notes that despite the local pilot scheme, work at a national level is “ongoing”.

So, there is still plenty happening for the housing sector – or not happening – as MPs continue to debate Brexit.

For details about the key announcements from the Spring Statement see our On the Day Briefing.

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 Karen.brown@northern-consortium.org.uk

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