November 24, 2020

Supply must be at the centre of social housing reform

The Government has finally released its social housing white paper, which was due in Spring 2020 but delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Split into seven chapters, the charter primarily focuses on improving regulatory measures for social housing residents but does have some level of attention on increasing the supply of social homes.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), said: “The NFB is proud to represent a number of registered providers, so we will be looking into the detail of this charter; however, as far as we are concerned, unless the number of social and affordable homes increases considerably, this white paper will not do enough.

“One of our members actually built the RIBA award-winning Goldsmith Street in Norwich; therefore we recognise how important it is to ensure that the builders of affordable housing are part of the social housing debate.”

The white paper does offer some nuanced approaches to ensuring an increased supply of social homes, such as ‘allowing affordable housing providers to develop homes for Social Rent anywhere in England’ and greater use of rural exception sites but it does not identify other policies to ensure that occurs, such as local development orders and compulsory purchase order reform.

Residents will welcome changes to strengthen the regulator but perhaps show caution that without new funding, it may not have the teeth or mechanisms for change. However, a focus on landlord performance through tenant satisfaction measures, senior representation and greater transparency of provider spend are welcomed.

As ‘one for one’ replacements from ‘Right to Buy have never happened, many will be concerned about the focus on home ownership remaining a key component of the charter because. It is therefore vital for those delivering social housing to continue lobbying hard on flexibility to spend ‘Right to Buy’ receipts and greater use of increased borrowing powers to get projects off the ground.

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning at the House Builders Association (HBA), said: “In the Planning for the Future whitepaper, the HBA recommended a number of mechanisms to increase the supply of social housing, such as ‘Right to Buy’ reform and better borrowing guidance. In our response to this white paper, we will be building on those ideas and ensuring that social housing has the same level of supply ambition as market homeownership, particularly as we support the Governments ‘Right to Buy’ ambitions.”