CWAG News Update - October 2017

19 October 2017: CWAG News Update - October 2017



CWAG News Update – October 2017


This update Includes the following topics: 


·         Feedback from the CWAG Annual General Meeting – including a review of the film ‘Dispossession the great social housing swindle’.

·         Additional £2 billion announced for affordable housing

·         Rents announcement – return to CPI plus 1% from 2020

·         Potential HRA flexibility to fund essential fire safety works

·         Consultation – ‘Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places’ – Proposals and Issues

·         New documents in the library

CWAG Annual General Meeting

In a break with tradition, the CWAG AGM this year featured the screening of a recently released film ‘Dispossession - the great social housing swindle’.

This fast moving 80 minute documentary uses a series of interviews and case studies to tell the story of social housing since 1945. Although it predates the Grenfell fire, the issues and themes resonate with grim relevance, tapping into the changing public mood around housing issues and social housing in particular. Read review

The afternoon session there was a presentation by Andy van Bradsky from DCLG on the theme of ‘Delivering and maintaining quality post Grenfell’.  The presentation focussed on the Governments current approach to estate regeneration as set out in the 2016 Estate Regeneration National Strategy. There was however a more positive message in terms of the forthcoming Housing Green Paper and confirmation of a shift in policy emphasis on social housing issues within Government and policy making circles.

Presentation slides

AGM Meeting Minutes

Housing Policy Update

It’s been an eventful few weeks for the housing sector with some major announcements from Government and hints of more to come.

Followed the Housing Minister’s announcement of a Green Paper on Social Housing at the NHF Conference, Theresa May used her speech at the Conservative Party Conference to announce additional funding for housing,  and making the first real commitment to social housing from the Conservatives.

Additional £2 billion announced for affordable housing

Although there is as yet not much detail, what we do know is that the announcement relates to additional grant monies that will be made available for both local authorities and housing associations to bid for. It is estimated that the programme will deliver around 25,000 new homes which represents a grant input of around £80,000 per unit.

The announcement also opens up the possibility of grant funding for new social rented housing,  a change from the current focus on ‘affordable rent’ ( where rents are up to 80% of the local market levels). It is likely that the programme will be directed into areas which currently have very high costs and high demand.

Whilst the announcement is a positive shift in policy, commentators have highlighted that it is relatively small in relation to the identified need, particularly when set in the context of a five year time frame. It is also small in comparison with the extra £10 billion announced to continue to support ‘help to buy’ a programme increasingly associated with maintaining over inflated house prices.

Rents announcement – return to CPI plus 1% from 2020

The announcement that social landlords will be able to raise rents by CPI plus 1% for five years from 2020 was widely welcomed by the sector as a generous deal.

The settlement is very much in line with the preferred outcome of the recent joint ARCH /CWAG / NFA consultation on future rent policy – summary of consultation responses

 Whilst this settlement will help remove some of the uncertainty around HRA Business Planning, a number of commentators have cautioned that there could be affordability issues for tenants.

The cap on benefits at Local Housing Allowance (LHA) levels, which is due to be imposed from April 2019, could create a shortfall between housing benefit and rents, creating problems in some areas.

Analysis by Savills has highlighted a number of areas where the gap between LHA rates and estimated rents in 2019/20 is less than £10 per week on average, meaning they are most at risk of social rent rises above LHA levels and tenants will be left to fund the difference.

Potential HRA flexibility to fund essential fire safety works

In giving evidence to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, Communities secretary, Sajid Javid, confirmed that the government will not provide direct funding or grants to councils for fire safety works but will consider changes to local authority HRA borrowing limits if ‘essential’ fire safety works are required.


Uncertainty remains around how ‘essential works’ will be defined and the Secretary of State set out an expectation that local authorities will in the first instance seek to accommodate these works through reprioritising existing budgets. He also confirmed that detailed discussions are progressing with 6 authorities that have requested assistance to pay for fire safety measures.



Consultation – ‘Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places’ – Proposals and Issues

This DCLG eight week consultation includes a number of proposals to reform the planning system to increase the supply of new homes, particularly in high cost areas.

Overall the consultation sets out a proportionate and straightforward approach to estimating housing need. For many areas this will produce estimates of need around which a consensus can be agreed – however this will not necessarily speed up development as the debate will shift to sustainability and planning choices and how best to address these needs.

In other areas the new approach will generate wider debate given difficulties reconciling environmental and landscape constraints, development on green belt land and how best to align housing need with economic growth and regeneration.

In practice the target of 266,000 properties per year will be difficult to achieve, in particular, the areas required to address significantly higher housing need than previously may find it difficult to deliver their share. Read more


New in the library

Consultation – ‘Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places’ – Proposals and Issues

Film Review – ‘Dispossession - the Great Social Housing swindle’

Minutes of Annual General Meeting [members only]

Presentation Slides - ‘Delivering and maintaining quality post Grenfell’ – Andy von Bradsky - DCLG