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It is about 3 years since the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, blasted Housing Associations for inefficiency; he was supported in this by George Osborne, the then Chancellor, who laid into their record for development.
Our Current Prime Minister, Mrs Theresa May, seems to have re-thought the position – 3 years is a short time in politics!
Addressing the National Housing Summit on 19th September, Mrs May seems to have had a total reversal of thought. Saying to housing associations ‘For too long, your work has gone unrecognised and underappreciated at the highest levels. But no longer’. Warm words indeed. It appears that the Government now appreciates ‘the discipline, rigour and management qualities of the serious multimillion-pound businesses’.
Mrs. May also made reference to the previous Government saying that social housing had been side-lined, ‘at best taken for granted, at worst actively undermined’. Social housing is stigmatised in the present time, but this is down to the work of the Conservative party under Margaret Thatcher and the ‘Right to Buy’; if being a tenant is seen as second class as opposed to ownership, it will create a stigma.
She has promised £2 billion to fund long-term partnerships. Stating ‘you asked, we delivered’, she then put the pressure on by asking for more homes that united quality as well as quantity.
Many would state this is not really an option; we’ve seen it before with Housing Action Trust and Housing Investment Programmes, ‘something’s got to give’ – with them, it was the space standard. Nice properties, but small; suddenly, there was a market for 2-seater sofas, smaller tables.
So, Mrs May feels that she is in a position to fix the ‘broken housing system’. Are we sceptical? The Head of a minority Government, Brexit still not settled, the Labour party calling for either a general election or a second Referendum – can she fix it?
I am glad that the housing associations and councils have been re-assured that the future is bright, but it does seem that yet again, the Government have ignored a major provider of housing – the private rented sector. There seemed no mention of assistance for them; no acknowledgement of the huge part they have played since the 1988 Housing Act in housing those that could no longer rely on allocation from local authority waiting lists.
With Brexit possibly leading to a further recession, there should be some planning for the possibility that despite £2 billion, the social sector cannot meet the requirements for large developments which are required to meet the needs of the 21st century. That planning would have to include the aid of the private rented sector.
What do the private sector need? Tax incentives would be a start. As would abandonment of attacks on the section 21 notice and a swifter and more robust Court process, which allows decent landlords to know that, if they get the wrong tenant, they can evict speedily (though legally!).
Private landlords play a crucial role – without them, people would languish for years on waiting lists. We should stop thinking of the differences between the sectors and concentrate on the only thing that matters – that homes are being provided.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon