The Autumn Statement perhaps provides the biggest indication yet of a new alignment of thought between the Treasury and the Department of Communities and Local Government.
Chief on the National Housing Federation’s (NHF) Christmas Gift List was the relaxation of the £4.7 billion Affordable Homes Programme 2016 to 2021 which was previously restricted to deliver at least:
135,000 homes for Shared Ownership
10,000 homes for Rent to Buy
8,000 homes for specialised housing
This wish was today granted by the Chancellor with his Autumn Statement clarifying that Housing Associations will be able “to deliver a mix of home for affordable rent, and low cost ownership to meet the housing needs of people in different circumstances and stages of their lives”.
Attention should however be paid to the specific reference to the term “affordable rent” as opposed to social rent. It remains to be seen whether this new grant flexibility could be extended to social rent in the future.
Expect revised HCA Heads of Terms shortly.
The new National Property Infrastructure Fund will also add a further £1.4 billion grant funding for an additional 40,000 new affordable homes.
Interestingly the Autumn Statement Document states these affordable homes “will include some for shared ownership and affordable rent“, which begs the question what other affordable homes will qualify?
Technically this could now include Starter Homes or potentially the NHF’s new Buy as you Go Model. We will have to wait until the HCA prospectus to find out.
Right to Buy
It is interesting; despite already piloting the voluntary Right to Buy the government has elected to commission a new pilot of up to 3,000. Even more interestingly, the Treasury’s funding estimate extends past the next General Election. It is entirely possible now we may never see a national roll out of the Policy.
Perhaps the most important thing about Philip Hammond’s first Autumn Statement is not what it announced, but what it didn’t.
The word “Starter Homes” does not appear once in the Autumn Statement document.
Additionally unlike previous Autumn Statements, there were no new Help to Buy schemes announced (such as the Help to Buy ISA) or any Stamp Duty exemptions.
Most importantly of all, there does not appear to be any nasty surprises for Housing Associations, such as the 1% rent cuts announced in the 2015 Budget.
Time to Deliver
One final word of warning however, now the Treasury have relaxed grant restrictions Housing Associations will be expected to deliver.
The time is very much now for Housing Associations to demonstrate what they are capable of, as the go to partner for solving the Housing Crisis.