Where is the investment in Northern housing?

Monday’s Budget brought the expectation of a nationwide boost to house-building.  With an announcement of an extra £500m funding to pay for the support structure that allows the building of new homes, it was a welcome announcement to deliver a boost to supply.

Just a few days later it is alarming news that Northern authorities will only be able to access a maximum of 20% of this new funding.  80% of all funding across all Government schemes for house building will be going to areas of “high affordability.”   This will exclude funding support for most of the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humber.

Jo Boaden, Chief Executive of the NHC said “It seems that funding to meet house-building ambitions is a ‘geographic’ issue, not a nationwide issue, with the vast proportion of the funding going to the South”.

Homes England’s 5 year strategic plan launched today announces that it will “play a major role in making the housing market work for everyone.”  The geographical targeting of funding to the South across 5 housing programmes draws stark attention to the North / South divide.

There are areas of the North facing severe constraints with additional targeted investment needed to support major development programmes.   The national focus on a certain definition of affordability prevents different housing markets from tackling unique challenges.

National policies must be flexible to target specific local issues – market access in unaffordable markets and housing quality and renewal in more affordable ones – this will ensure that funding is directed where it is most needed, improving value for money and making more of a dent in the housing crisis.

The housing deficit isn’t just in new supply; it is also to be seen in the quality and age of the existing housing stock, with large quantities of pre-war terraced housing.   Investment to bring brownfield land to market is perhaps the single most important immediate measure that could be taken to accelerate the public sector delivery of new homes in the North.

Jo Boaden said “It is in areas where private sector investment has been weakest where there has been far less public infrastructure investment.  Regional inequality in public infrastructure investment could mean that it becomes more challenging to attract other investment in housing.

“Government must ensure the investment plan can meet the scale of investment needs in all parts of the country, not just in areas of highest affordability pressure.”

NHC Chief Exec Jo Boaden awarded Woman of the Year

NHC Chief Executive Jo Boaden wins Woman of the Year at the Women in Housing Awards.

The Women in Housing Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of outstanding women working in housing. Organised by Inside Housing and the Chartered Institute of Housing, this year saw the introduction of a new Woman of the Year category to recognise a truly inspirational ambassador for women in housing. Jo Boaden was surprised and delighted to win Woman of the Year (under 10,000 homes).

Jo has been an inspiration to women within the organisation and the wider housing sector. She has demonstrated incredible achievement and has encouraged a culture of progression through leadership training, coaching and mentoring schemes. She is a fantastic advocate for women working to develop their careers in housing.

Recently Jo joined the Board as Chair for Your Homes Newcastle and in the 2018 New Year’s Honours list, Jo was awarded a CBE in recognition of services to housing providers in the North.

Jo said:

“I was surprised but extremely proud to receive this inspirational award, I am hugely supported by a fantastic team around me who work tirelessly to provide our members with an excellent service.”

Geraldine Howley, CEX, Incommunities said:

“Jo Boaden is the perfect role model for women seeking a career in the higher levels of leadership. She has led the transformation of the Consortium into a modern member-led organisation and set an excellent example of inclusive and inspiring leadership.

Tom Miskell, NHC Chair said:

“Jo is extremely hard working and her enthusiasm shines through for all to see. She is a skilled political operator and uses this to maximum effect to champion housing in the North.”

Jo is clearly passionate about making a difference; her well-deserved CBE recognised her hard work and achievements and winning Woman of the Year has been another highlight of a busy year for Jo.

New report finds 1 million home owners in the North are living in poor quality housing

A new study highlights there are 1 million non-decent owner-occupied homes in the North – and a further 345,000 private rented sector properties that are unfit and fail to meet the decent homes standard.
Worryingly, of those 1 million homes, over half are occupied by at least one person over 60 or with a long-term illness or disability.

The report: The Hidden costs of Poor Quality Housing in the North, was commissioned by the NHC and written by the Smith Institute, an independent public policy think tank. It highlights the scale of the problem and the increased health impacts of those living in homes that are not fit for purpose.

Despite an older housing stock, the North has made good progress in reducing the number of non-decent homes, with huge improvement made to the social housing stock over the past twenty years.
However, lack of investment for private housing, particularly for older people, is starting to reverse the trend so the level of unfit homes is increasing.

It is well known that poor condition housing harms people’s health and well-being. It also carries considerable costs for the NHS and social care system, as well as negative economic, welfare and environmental impacts.
Owner occupiers are often seen as asset rich and having the means to repair, improve or adapt their homes. However, this study shows that too many areas of the North have low value, poor quality houses with little or no equity – a situation that has not changed since the financial crisis 10 years ago.

The report suggests that the challenges could be addressed by increased support for home improvement under a new Decent Private Homes programme and new devolution housing deals. Stock condition surveys could evaluate the potential costs and savings. This then could be part funded by recycling identified savings into local or city region funding pots for home improvements, or for older people to be given the choice to move to a property that better suits their needs. New devolution deals could accelerate this work.

Jo Boaden, Chief Executive, NHC said:

“We are acutely aware that new homes are urgently needed across the North and there has been an understandable focus on finding ways to achieve this. However, new supply in the North accounts for less than 1% of the North’s housing stock and so we cannot forget about the critical importance of maintaining, improving or adapting existing homes.”

Paul Hackett, Director, the Smith institute said:

“The number of retired homeowners living in non-decent properties is alarming. All the focus has been on increasing housing supply, and not enough attention has been given to the quality of existing homes. Urgent action is needed across the North to tackle the problem of disrepair. Perhaps it is time for a Decent Homes programme for the North, focused on helping low income older homeowners?”

In the coming months, the NHC will be working with members and stakeholders to open up the debate to help find creative solutions to these problems. Further work will be carried out to highlight the clear links between poor quality housing and the impact it has on older people’s health and ability to stay in their homes for longer.

The study was sponsored by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Karbon Homes.

Read a copy of the report here.


NHC reaction to Social Housing Green Paper

At face value, the proposals laid out in the Green Paper provide a leap in the right direction from the Government towards improving the state and perception of social housing with a raft of detail exploring: the supply and quality of social homes, the rights of tenants, some of the stigmas associated with social housing tenants, service management, safety issues and the wider issues of community and the local neighbourhood.

There is much in the detail that will be pleasing to housing providers — the focus on decent homes and thriving communities and reversing the decline in council housing — reflecting calls the NHC has been making over the past months and years.

There are of course areas that may be of concern in the Green Paper — little emphasis on the funding for supply of homes for social rent, and continued emphasis on home ownership at the expense of other forms of tenure.

We are looking to the Green Paper to deliver solutions to access to truly affordable housing, quality in the rented sector, stability, and sustainability for providers.

A sentiment that we have repeated many times is the need to ensure that housing reforms do not wholly focus on new homes. The Green Paper appears to lack any real commitment to improving existing homes, in terms of revitalising communities and has only limited proposals for decent standards.  With an increasingly ageing population there will be a substantial need for supported housing improvements to existing dwellings. There is an important opportunity for the Green Paper to explicitly recognise this and to move away from “one size fits all” approaches which are not appropriate in many Northern areas.

The NHC believes there is value in developing a clear national strategy to set out overall objectives in terms of the quantity, quality and access to housing for which we are striving.  This would provide a framework for devolved approaches with the flexibility and capacity to allow localities to develop their own solutions backed by a single place based resource stream.

There is little emphasis in the Green Paper on solutions.  This is a very Green Paper – opening the door for considerable debate within the sector.   We must grasp that opportunity.

There remain long-term challenges for the sector in being part of the solution to the housing crisis – this is just the start.

Govt Consultation — Overcoming the Barriers to Longer Tenancies in the PRS

A consultation into making three-year tenancies the mandatory minimum term in the PRS was launched by the government in July.

It invites views and comments on a proposed model for a three-year tenancy with a six month break clause, and the options for implementing this. The model is designed to give tenants certainty over rents, and retains the flexibility that many desire.

Delivering a speech to launch the consultation, James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We’re bringing real change to making renting more secure. I know this is particularly important to a growing number of families, vulnerable tenants and older people who rent and live with the uncertainty of suddenly being forced to move or fear eviction if they complain about problems with their home.”

The NHC will be responding to this consultation on issues such as:

• the benefits and disadvantages of the proposed model.
• grounds for a landlord recovering a tenancy.
• restrictions on rent increases.
• what other, alternative options should the government consider.

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

Find out more about the consultation which runs until the 26 August here.

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 RaynsfordReview@tcpa.org.uk with your responses.

National Planning Policy Framework

The Government published the revision to the National Planning Policy Framework

(NPPF) in March and this was subject to consultation which ended recently.

Much of the content of the revised document was based on the outcome of previous consultations which the NHC has already commented on and we have responded to the detailed questions on the new revisions.

We would particularly like to emphasise the importance of the planning proposals to some of our current priorities in the Northern regions. The NHC is supportive of an approach to planning that helps to facilitate new homes and great places but it is important to recognised that many local areas in the North are focusing on the quality of the existing housing stock, with the use of developer contributions being directed to improving and revitalising neighbourhoods where poor housing is holding back economic inclusion.

The consultation contains many positive revisions intended to alleviate the national shortage of homes.  The proposals to simplify and improve the plan making process so that it is quicker and more transparent, providing the land we need for new homes whilst ensuring accountability are all welcome.   Ultimately, the effectiveness of the measures proposed varies and a step-change may depend upon an increase in investment and capacity in local planning authorities.

We look forward to continued dialogue with Government about ways to ensure the quantity and quality of homes and places that we all acknowledge are needed.

The NHC response to the consultation can be found here.