Independence...Integrity...Value

October 2015

Oct 8th 2015, 14:30

-

26th October 2015

In the Housing and Planning Bill the government has put forward an interesting approach to the sale of high value council homes. The Bill proposes that the government will calculate what it considers a likely level of receipts from the sale of high value council homes for each local authority and that the local authority would be obliged to pay the government this sum regardless of the actual level of sales. Coupled with this is a duty for local authorities to consider the sale of high value homes. This approach means that the government would be assured of receiving the receipts that it needs to fund ‘right to buy’ in housing associations and the brownfield fund while leaving it to the local authorities to identify the specific homes that are to be sold.

Some commentators have suggested that this approach will give local authorities more flexibility in deciding which homes to sell and in theory this may be the case. However, if in practice the target receipts are challenging to achieve (as would seem likely) councils may be forced to sell all vacant high value homes and still have to find further resources by selling other homes or by making savings in revenue or capital budgets.

Furthermore, the Housing and Planning Bill does not identify how the government will calculate the target receipts for each authority. This calculation is to appear in regulations. Most analysis that has been carried out to date assumes that the government will define a high value council home in the same way as the Policy Exchange did in their recent paper that advocated the policy. However, this may not necessarily be the case and the government may select a different definition – for example, one that spreads the requirement to sell homes and contribute to the ‘right to buy’ in housing associations more widely. In effect, it could become a ‘tax’ on the housing revenue account that councils could meet however they chose but with the government suggesting that market sales of high value homes would be their preference.

This week’s ‘Local Government Chronicle’ includes an interesting article entitled; ‘Right-to-buy change threatens funding’ that considers this issue. In it, Peter Sloman, Chief Executive of Oxford City Council (a city that has recently been identified as the least affordable in England) is quoted as saying:

“We are sceptical about the ability of the housing revenue account to provide significant funding in advance of any property sales, and the pattern of high value voids is highly unpredictable… Proposals to force the housing revenue account to fund the right-to-buy for housing associations will mean we will struggle to meet our obligations to the people who apply to us as homeless, who depend on us for the very housing that arises out of voids to meet their needs… Whilst we will seek to replace and maximise housing in the city, the lack of land for development and the high costs associated with development in the city mean that will be a significant challenge.”

This week we have published the October edition of the AWICS Housing News. It includes articles on:

  • Housing and Planning Bill
  • Welfare Reform and Work Bill
  • Extension of Right to Buy to Housing Associations
  • New Build by local authorities — councils set up housing companies
  • Sale of high value council homes — reports raise doubts
  • Scottish National Housing Trust — 1000th home built through investment vehicle
  • Welsh Homelessness Policy — success for new policy
  • Introduction to AWICS webinars — a convenient way to access our training offer
  • Housing Associations
  • Advertisements (Eden District Council and Chartered Institute of Housing)

Your copy can be freely downloaded from HERE

Our next seminar is on ‘Welfare Reform: The Implications for Housing & Local Government’ and will be held in Oldham on 4th November 2015. I am looking forward to meeting the delegates. This session is proving popular but we still have a few places available. For further details or to make a booking please click HERE

Our next webinar is an ‘Introduction to the Housing Revenue Account’ and will be held on 5th November 2015 at 2pm. I am looking forward to meeting the delegates. This session is proving popular. For further details or to make a booking please click HERE

19th October 2015

The government published its long awaited ‘Housing and Planning Bill’ last week. It contains provisions for the extension of ‘right to buy’ to housing association tenants and for the sale of high value council homes. However, because the Bill provides for ministers to implement the detailed policies in these areas by regulation many questions remain unanswered.

Nonetheless, two important elements of the new policies have emerged:

  • Housing Associations will be compensated for the ‘right to buy’ sales by a ‘grant’. While details of how this grant will be calculated and what conditions may be attached to it have yet to be announced this has led to some concern in the sector that the compensation received by housing associations may not match the ‘full compensation’ that housing associations thought was contained in the ‘voluntary deal’. There will also be a role for the Homes & Communities Agency to monitor the performance of housing associations on ‘right to buy’ and home ownership.
  • There will be a duty on councils to consider selling high value vacant social housing. However, rather than handing over to government the actual proceeds of the sales of high value council homes, the government will calculate what it thinks each council should receive from these sales and will require them to contribute this amount. This can be seen as a ‘clever’ move by the government as it guarantees their income and leaves it to local authorities to decide which homes to sell and how to fund the levy. How the government will calculate these sums has yet to be announced but if councils don’t sell as many homes as the government envisages they will have to find other ways of making the payments.

Clearly the regulations will be awaited with interest by housing associations and local authorities.

Other measures in the Bill include:

  • Powers to reduce regulatory control over housing associations – but no details have been provided about this.
  • The ‘pay to stay’ regulations, including an obligation on tenants to declare their incomes, powers for councils to receive information from HM Revenues & Customs, payment of the additional income to government and regulatory powers.
  • Changes to planning rules to allow developers to provide ‘starter homes’ for home-ownership as an alternative to social or affordable housing.
  • Duty for councils to promote ‘starter homes’ and to keep registers of people seeking land for self-build or custom house building
  • Government intervention if councils don’t adopt local plans.
  • Controls over ‘rogue landlords’.
  • Automatic planning permission on ‘brownfield’ sites
  • Additional planning powers for the Mayor of London

These matters will be considered further at:

  • Our seminar ‘Right to Buy Extension, sale of High Value Council Homes and Rent Reform’ that will be held in London on 30th November. For details or to make a booking please click HERE
  • Our webinar on Sale of High Value Council Homes on 24th November. For details please click HERE
  • Our webinar on Right to Buy for Housing Association tenants on 10th December. For details please click HERE
  • Our webinar on Social Rent Reforms on 14th December. For details please click HERE

This week we have published a briefing paper on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. Your copy can be freely downloaded from HERE

Our next seminar is on ‘Welfare Reform: The Implications for Housing & Local Government’ and will be held in Oldham on 4th November 2015. I am looking forward to meeting the delegates. This session is proving popular but we still have a few places available. For further details or to make a booking please click HERE

12th October 2015

The National Housing Federation has announced the results of its ballot of housing associations on the ‘voluntary deal’ that it has negotiated with Communities & Local Government for the introduction of the ‘Right to Buy’ for tenants of Housing Associations. While I have stood down as Chair of Impact Housing Association, I remain one of the association’s members and in that capacity am kept informed of key developments. Impact Housing Association was one of the majority of housing associations that have voted ‘yes’ to the deal. The Chief Executive explained the board’s reasoning to members as follows:

“Last Thursday the government gave us all an ultimatum: sign up to a voluntary code to implement ‘Right to Buy’ or be prepared for the consequences. They have given us to the end of this week to respond. Every housing association is now considering this option. Our Board discussed it last week and agreed to sign the voluntary code. Our view is that the voluntary code gives us more freedom than if we were forced to implement it through legislation. For example, if there is a property that we particularly don’t want to sell we can give the tenant a voucher to buy a property elsewhere. I hope you will see that we have all little choice in this matter.”

Last Thursday we held our webinar: ‘Right to Buy for Housing Association tenants’ that explored this issue further. I am grateful to all those who attended. Details of all our webinars can be found HERE

Our seminar: 'Right to Buy Extension, sale of High Value Council Homes and Rent Reform' in September was over-subscribed so we have arranged another session that will be held in London on 30th November. For details or to make a booking click HERE

This week we have published a briefing paper that provides an update on the reinvigorated right to buy. A copy can be freely downloaded from HERE

The evidence from research that has been carried out into the effects of ‘right to buy’ in local authorities is that it is not necessarily succeeding in its declared objective of increasing home ownership. This is because many of the homes sold are ultimately re-sold into the private rented sector. It occurs to me that if a government was really serious about extending home ownership its focus should be on bringing about a significant redistribution of income and wealth in favour of working people thus increasing significantly the number of people who could afford to sustain home-ownership.

The week before last I presented an in-house session of ‘All You Want to Know about Local Authority Housing Finance’ to a group of housing staff in a Midlands local authority. They said that the session was very relevant, the quality of the presentation was excellent and the training met their needs fully. The words that they felt best described the session were: thorough, valuable, practical, clear and comprehensive. Particular comments included:

  • The course has given us a deeper understanding of housing finance and helped to equip us to make informed decisions in the challenging times ahead.
  • Enjoyed the session – made a dry subject very interesting.
  • Enjoyed the day and learnt a lot

Details of what is included in the session either as an 'open' seminar or an in-house session can be found HERE

If you would like to enquire about having your own in-house session please contact me at Adrian.waite@awics.co.uk or 017683-52165.

We are currently advertising to fill two vacancies. The first is for an Administrative Assistant who will be based in our offices in Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria. The second is for a Receptionist who will work in London. Further information can be found HERE

I see that the Resolution Foundation has published research showing that 100,000 working households will fall into poverty next year alone as a result of the summer budget despite the increase in the minimum wage. This will obviously have a significant impact, not only on those families but also on local authorities and housing associations.

Our next seminar is on ‘Welfare Reform: The Implications for Housing & Local Government’ and will be held in Oldham on 4th November 2015. This session is proving popular but we still have a few places available. For further details or to make a booking please click HERE

Note: Cookies are used on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies. Read more about our cookie policy

Copyright © 2017 AWICS. Website by Web Industry