Social housing ping-pong

“It’s déjà vu all over again”. Yogi Berra’s famous words came to me when I heard that the government planned to split the quango that funds and oversees social housing providers into separate investment and regulatory arms.

Investment and regulation have very different objectives, so it is important that those functions should be independent of one other, but this will be the third reorganisation in eight years – a period of political meddling that will have wasted millions of pounds.

For 44 years, between 1964 and 2008, housing associations were funded and regulated by the Housing Corporation, whose role became increasingly important during the 1980s, when council house-building was supposedly replaced by housing association development.

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Right to Fail?

The government’s announcement that the Voluntary Right to Buy (VRTB) has been kicked into 2018 will be welcomed by most housing associations (although those who had made business plans assuming a certain level of receipts might be less than happy).

Readers of Inside Housing will recall the fierce debate that took place in September and October last year when the National Housing Federation (NHF) made its offer to then communities secretary Greg Clark.

One of the principal motivations for the offer was to avoid a statutory scheme that would lead the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to re-classify associations as public bodies, (in fact the ONS had already made that decision based on existing regulatory control of the sector). Continue reading

Redfern Reviewed

“Wanting to help boost ownership is in Labour’s DNA,” says John Healey in his introduction to the Redfern Review. Commissioned by Mr Healey himself, rather than the Labour Party, the report is a bit of a curate’s egg, with some excellent proposals but a number of key omissions. The report is nominally independent, although Peter Redfern, the chief executive of Taylor Wimpey, is a senior figure in an industry that has, in the view of many, played a major part in the housing crisis. More on this below.

Mr Redfern says English homeownership fell from 71% in 2003 to 63.5%t in 2014/15, and the decline has been steepest among Generation Rent. The report sets out a number of policy options for reversing this decline. It accepts that some government-subsidised homeownership products can be inflationary and calls for a savings culture among young people. Planning reform and a political consensus on long-term housing supply are among the solutions put forward. Continue reading

Is the Housing Act crumbling?

Regular readers will recall the fierce parliamentary battle over the Housing and Planning Act, which came into law this May. In the Lords, peers launched a raft of unsuccessful amendments to try to water down the “reforms” of social housing.

The final Act included pay to stay, requiring higher-paid council tenants to pay a higher rent, a “voluntary” right to buy for housing association tenants, with the discounts paid for by a forced sale of higher value council properties, and the end of lifetime tenancies for council tenants, to be replaced by fixed term tenancies.  Continue reading