McVey brush off over council powers to manage housing association homes

Written Commons question gets a “we’ll talk about it later” response from housing minister.

Housing Minister Esther McVey

Councils having the powers to manage housing association properties… one of the biggest topics for the sector right now… and the housing minister says “we’ll talk about it later”.

That’s what Labour’s Paul Farrelly as good as had back from Esther McVey in response to his written Commons question on what assessment MHCLG had made of the potential merits of providing councils with the power to manage properties currently owned by housing associations.

McVey replied: “The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.”

Which, to critics, raised the question as to what assessment actually has been done.

McVey’s stance is in stark contrast to that of Kate Henderson and Terrie Alafat – chief executives of NHF and CIH respectively – who stressed the opportunities for collaboration between housing associations and councils in giving evidence to the Commons HCLG committee.

Though their focus was on building plans of associations and councils being an opportunity for “collaboration not competition”.

Alafat told the committee of building plans of “some absolutely amazing partnerships” between the two sectors already underway, with challenge lying in why such partnerships were not happening in more places and what was needed to make them happen.

Councils having the “powers and resources” to take housing associations under direct control was backed by a vote at the Labour conference.

The vote doesn’t mean the motion automatically becomes policy – the party’s National Policy Forum will decide whether such a commitment makes it to the party’s manifesto.

In November and December 2018, the Local Government Association (LGA) and the National Housing Federation (NHF) have worked together on prospects for cros-sector collaboration on homelessness.

Together, NHF and LGA hosted five roadshow events across England over November-December last year to discuss how councils and associations can work together to achieve solutions.

A report just out reinforces key structural changes sen as required to make inroads into rising homelessness.

These include:

  • The need for urgent government investment to enable housing associations and councils to build 145,000 new affordable homes a year – of which 90,000 must be social rent
  • A fair and effective welfare system
  • Secure, long term funding for support and supported housing.

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