There was a lot in Sajid Javid’s Housing White paper to make me sit up and take notice, but the line that stood out most clearly was that housing associations will be expected to deliver “significantly more affordable homes during the current parliament.” In return, there’s an offer to discuss rent setting with government – a chance to be part of the conversation and help set the agenda, rather than have something done ‘to’ us. This raises the prospect of longer term certainty; the opportunity to look ahead and be even more ambitious.
But we can’t afford to blow it.
The de-emphasising of home ownership, and move to backing a broad range of tenures to meet different types of housing need, is a welcome one. After all, delivering a mixture of tenures that meet specific local housing requirements is what housing associations do well. At a time when average house prices in London are almost 17 times average salaries, so many people now need private rent to be a long term, secure option for them and their families, so I was pleased to see this highlighted as a priority.
For a while now, housing associations have been leading the way in setting and raising standards in the private rented sector. We are well placed to deliver private rented homes at scale; we’re established landlords who can offer flexibility of tenure, high quality property management services, and who plough our profits back in to building affordable homes.
Fizzy Living is Thames Valley Housing’s private rental arm, funded with commitment from Silver Arrow, a subsidiary of ADIA. It has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception in 2012. We now have over 1,000 properties available and in the pipeline, offering very high quality homes at prices affordable for those locked out of home ownership. We aren’t alone in this, and I was more than happy to sign the NHF’s pledge to invest even more in this tenure.
Planning and local authorities
Along with the White Paper, also published this week was new research showing that support for local house-building has almost doubled in the last 6 years, with housing from social landlords being top of the wish list. If the NIMBY faction really is dying out, or at worst a vocal minority, a shift in perceptions and a hand of friendship from government gives us a golden opportunity. We all know that the green belt was off limits for discussion this time around, but that might not always be the case.
Measures to increase the scale and speed of land supply are positive steps though. Investment in planning departments at Local Authorities, giving them the skills and resources they need to address local housing need, with realistic and frequently re-visited housing plans is long overdue!
At TVH we work with a broad range of councils, each with specific issues and priorities. I hope that the ambitions set out in the White Paper mean we are able to grow these relationships and work even more closely with local authority partners, innovating to make sure we are delivering the best homes for people in our communities.