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Blog 31st March 2020

Mar 31st, 15:15

Blog 31st March 2020

In this blog, I introduce our latest webinars, consider the impact of coronavirus on local authority and housing association finances and refer to: homelessness; rents & evictions; National Housing Federation; South Yorkshire Housing Association; Plymouth Community Homes; Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government; Financial Conduct Authority; Department for Work & Pensions; Impact Housing Association; Central Housing Investment Consortium; and Inside Housing.

AWICS has launched a series of webinars

Our webinars look at a range of subjects of interest to clients in local government and housing. They last about one hour and offer participants plenty of opportunities for questions and discussion as well as a presentation on the topic. The cost is £30 a session plus value added tax.

The webinars conform to the same standards that clients have come to expect at our seminars but offer a different format in which to learn and exchange information and points of view. Participants in each webinar also receive a digital copy of the presentation used, a digital copy of a briefing paper on the subject and a link to a video of the webinar. It is possible to ask questions during and after the webinar.

Our webinars are an ideal way to continue learning and training despite the coronavirus situation.

This week we have launched new webinars covering:

  • Introduction to Local Authority Housing Finance in England
  • Introduction to Local Authority Housing Finance in Wales
  • Introduction to Housing Association Finance in Scotland

With each subject there are three separate webinars covering revenue, capital and technical issues.

These webinars are comprehensive, up to date and are designed for people who are not experts in housing finance, but who need to understand the basics and achieve an overview of what is going on. They are suitable for board members, councillors, housing managers, tenant representatives, finance staff who have limited experience of local authority housing finance and others who realise that an understanding of housing finance can place them at an advantage!

For further information or to make a booking, please follow one of the following links:

We intend to launch further webinars over the following weeks covering subjects including:

  • Introduction to Local Authority Housing Finance in Scotland
  • Introduction to Housing Association Finance in England
  • Introduction to Housing Association Finance in Wales
  • Service Charges in Social Housing in England, Scotland & Wales
  • Introduction to Local Government Finance in England
  • Introduction to Local Government Finance in Wales
  • Introduction to Local Government Finance in Scotland
  • Developments in Local Authority Housing Finance in England
  • Local Housing Companies and Development
  • Business Planning in the Housing Revenue Account
  • Risk Management
  • Universal Credit and Rent Arrears

For further information about all our webinars, please click here.

If you would like to enquire about future webinars, or would like to suggest any relevant subjects, please e-mail adrian.waite@awics.co.uk or telephone 017683-51498.

Coronavirus is raising a wide range of issues for local authorities and social landlords across Britain, including some financial issues related to housing.

Local authorities are being required to house all rough sleepers, but the government is only meeting a proportion of the cost as discussed in my blog last week.

There are concerns that as coronavirus forces people out of work, many tenants will have financial problems despite the various packages that the government has put in place and may fail to pay rent and could therefore face eviction.

Some housing associations, including South Yorkshire Housing Association and Plymouth Community Homes, were quick to commit themselves to not evicting any tenants who failed to pay rent because of loss of earnings related to coronavirus; and the National Housing Federation said it did not expect any social housing tenants to be evicted because of the effects of coronavirus.

Some tenants' groups are pressuring for a rent holiday, equivalent to the mortgage holiday offered to homeowners. The Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government initially promised emergency legislation to protect tenants in social and private housing. However, in practice all that was offered was a simple extension of the notice period to three months, leaving tenants in arrears still dependent on the goodwill of their landlords in the long-term.

If social landlords stick to their public pledges not to evict, it should not be a problem for social housing tenants. However, while social landlords will not want to evict tenants who are unable to pay their rent, it appears they must brace themselves for increased rent arrears and potentially increased write offs of bad debts.

Also, offering rent breaks is not simple. Landlords need to demonstrate that they have considered factors including how the decision may impact its ability to meet its obligations more generally. If a rent deferral and repayment is preferred, the social landlord must be very careful to ensure it meets Financial Conduct Authority requirements – including registration.

There is also the danger that, if it is known that landlords will accept rent breaks, some tenants will take advantage of this even if their income is not affected by coronavirus.

Local authorities and housing associations are strengthening services to help tenants to make prompt claims. The National Housing Federation is also lobbying government to alter the Universal Credit system to make it simpler and quicker to claim. Predictably, the Department for Work & Pensions is reporting a significant increase in the number of claims for Universal Credit.

Bramble Court at Brampton, Cumbria. An extra-care elderly housing scheme developed by Impact Housing Association while I was Chair.

Coronavirus is also putting a halt to most development and construction activity. There is some confusion regarding whether the government considers that construction work is essential work that should continue despite the coronavirus lockdown. However, many construction companies have closed their sites anyway and London & Quadrant Housing Association also decided to close its sites in the interest of customer and employee safety. These decisions affect new build and major works such as removing cladding from high-rise blocks. This could reduce landlords’ income and as John Fisher of the Central Housing Investment Consortium told ‘Inside Housing’:

“Landlords are at risk for reduced income… Their business plans and cash flows are relatively sensitive because they’re encouraged to borrow and build new homes.”

The coronavirus pandemic is creating a rapidly changing situation affecting many aspects of our lives including the finances of local authorities and housing associations. There will also be long-term effects although it is probably too soon to say exactly what they many be.

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