If you work in the affordable housing sector, I’m sure you’ll be watching closely as new Chancellor Philip Hammond delivers his first Autumn Statement on Wednesday.
But before we look for new policies or any changes in direction, here at Sovereign we’ll be hoping to see more detail about those big ticket items that are still work in progress – Voluntary Right to Buy, deregulation, Starter Homes and Pay to Stay.
It can be hard to future-proof our strategies and support our residents when there are so many ‘known unknowns’. Later in the autumn, we’ll be looking out for the promised Housing White Paper too, which will set out a ‘detailed strategy on housebuilding’.
So what should we be hoping for?
The National Housing Federation (NHF) and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) have both made their predictions, and there’s a lot of common ground. At their heart they both recognise homeownership doesn’t work for everyone.
To ensure everybody has access to a decent home that they can afford we need to return to building a variety of homes that meet the needs of everybody.
Both bodies have asked that the remainder of the £7bn shared ownership and affordable homes programme should be available to fund a mix of rented and shared ownership homes. With a further top up of £3bn the NHF has suggested that housing associations could develop 335,000 homes within the lifetime of this parliament – a third of the Government’s target of one million new homes.
The NHF are also proposing a new housing product – Buy as You Go – where residents pay a rent at 90% of market rent and gradually acquire shares to own their home within 25 years.
Obviously, we don’t know what will be in the Autumn Statement or the Housing White Paper. But there have been some clues, and it looks like this statement could mark a shift away from austerity and towards investment in key infrastructure. It is not clear whether the Government views housing as one of these key areas of infrastructure, but there are positive signs that they recognise the seriousness of the housing crisis in the UK.
For example, the Homelessness Reduction Bill has received support from the Government. And the new(ish) Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell, has made several welcome references to the need for more flexibility around the tenure of homes the country needs and the range of organisations that will build them. The Government also seem positive about the NHF’s Buy as You Go scheme and appear keen to speed up the planning process by tackling the lack of resource in local planning departments.
At Sovereign, we recognise that navigating the changing political and economic landscape, brought about by the decision to leave the EU, a new Government and a new US President, will be complex. We’re hoping for some clarification in terms of housing and welfare policy, and for economic stability, which allow us to steer a course though all of this.
Theresa May’s government has suggested that they will govern with less rhetoric and more pragmatism and housing is an area where this approach could make a really positive difference.