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Spending Review 2021: What is the housing sector calling for?

By 15/10/2021No Comments

Affordable homes funding and development

The government must invest £12.8bn a year over the next 10 years in homes for social rent to “break the back” of the housing crisis, according to Shelter.

The charity also wants the government to announce the next 10 years of its Affordable Homes Programme (AHP) now, rather than waiting until 2025/6 to announce the next tranche of funding.

“This will provide long-term certainty to local authorities and housing associations, allowing them to deliver far more homes at a faster pace,” the charity said. “The government must also significantly increase the proportion of the AHP which is spent on genuinely affordable social rented housing.”

The Local Government Association wants measures to help councils secure affordable homes for “all those who need it”. This should include a “housing stimulus package to deliver 100,000 homes each year and reform of the Housing Revenue Account system”, it said in its submission.

The NHC called for the government to do more to promote brownfield development. “The chancellor should commit a further £500m of funding over the Spending Review period to establish new homes on brownfield sites,” it said. It recommends the money should be allocated directly to combined authorities, where they exist.

Homelessness, welfare and COVID-19 recovery

Despite the Spending Review coming after the end date of the £20 Universal Credit uplift, it did not stop groups calling for the payment to be kept.

The G15 said the uplift should be maintained and extended to “all legacy benefits”, while making sure Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates rise to meet growing costs.

Shelter called for the government to halt the planned cancellation of the uplift. On LHA rates, it said the government must unfreeze and keep them in line with at least the 30th percentile and conduct an “urgent review”, to ensure they are adequate to keep families on low incomes in their homes.

It called for the benefit cap to be abolished. “The benefit cap has prevented tens of thousands of families from accessing both the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and the restored rate of LHA,” it said.

The charity said the government must make a dedicated COVID-arrears fund of £360m available to prevent homelessness. “This funding must be introduced immediately to ensure those at imminent risk of eviction and homelessness can access it straight away,” it said in its submission.

The G15 also asked for ministers to allow social housing providers to bid directly into the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to support residents into employment.

The NHF wants the government to reinstate the £1.6bn ring-fenced funding for housing-related support services, and use the opportunity of social care and NHS reform to “prioritise preventative services” and “enable housing providers to continue responding to coronavirus”.

Levelling up

With levelling up still apparently high on the government’s policy agenda, sector groups have tried to address the issue.

The NHF is calling for Homes England’s remit to be widened to include regeneration. As most current government funding focuses on additionality, the NHF said there is a “role for Homes England to deliver high-quality housing-led regeneration where it cannot be funded otherwise”. It added: “Higher flexibility on existing funding including allowing for replacement of homes is crucial to support the levelling-up agenda, and to help deliver quality affordable homes across the country.”

The G15 has reminded the government that levelling-up should also be applied to the capital. “London has been hardest hit of any region in the country by the pandemic, with higher job losses coupled with existing income inequality in London that is twice the level compared to the rest of the UK,” its submission said. “The capital also faces higher poverty and child poverty rates, alongside the highest proportion of Universal Credit recipients. To achieve a fair recovery, levelling-up will be as necessary within London as it is across the country.”

The NHC has said that local councils need a return to greater spending capacity to tackle levelling-up. “The Spending Review should set out a clear commitment to a real-terms increase in local government funding,” its submission said.

It also said that Homes England’s strategic objectives should be changed to do more to contribute to levelling-up and net zero.

“The opportunity…exists to refocus the agency’s significant resources on the current government’s priorities, ensuring that expert advice and support is available to those areas in need of levelling-up,” it said.

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