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Partial welcome from HBC for affordable housing fund

Hastings Borough Council has welcomed the government’s announcement of £12.2bn of funding for affordable housing, but questions whether it is sufficient. Nick Terdre reports.

“We welcome the commitment of £12 bn funding but believe this is still inadequate for the scale of the problem, which is significant,” said Cllr Andy Batsford, lead councillor for housing and homelessness. “We don’t know how the money will be allocated yet, but what is needed is more sustainable, targeted and tailored funding to meet the scale of the problem.”

There is a significant shortage of affordable housing in Hastings, with over 1,600 applicants currently on the waiting list for social housing, HBC says.

And the number of people in housing need is expected to increase in the short term, “particularly once the current restrictions on evictions from rented properties are lifted and the furlough scheme comes to an end.”

The ban on landlords bringing eviction proceedings against their tenants ended this week, while the furlough scheme will be wound up at the end of October.

The funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is divided between £11.5bn for a new Affordable Homes Programme, which aims to deliver 180,000 new homes between 2021 and 2026, and £700m to extend an existing new homes programme into 2022.

Emphasis on ownership

However, half of the new homes will be available for “affordable home ownership.” The remainder will be let out at discounted rent levels, with 10% reserved for supported housing for people with physical and mental health challenges.

“We are concerned about the commitment to make genuinely affordable rented accommodation available in Hastings because half of the funding has been earmarked for home ownership projects,” Cllr Batsford said.

“Given the high numbers of people in housing need in Hastings and the affordability of much of the accommodation available in the town for those on low incomes, this commitment falls well below what is needed.”

The fund will be administered by Homes England, to which the council, housing associations and/or developers will submit bids. One third has been earmarked for greater London.

“We are concerned that some of the schemes which might benefit local projects are ineligible for any of the funding,” Batsford said. “Further, we believe that any increases in affordable housing may well be lost through other government plans such as the proposed watering down of affordable housing requirements outlined in recent government consultation on revisions to the planning system…

“We believe that the proposals outlined will not go far enough towards assisting many of the key workers who have done so much to support our local communities in the current Covid-19 pandemic.”

Developments of under 50 homes will not be eligible to apply for funds from Homes England, Cllr Batsford told HOT. And as is well known, developers commonly rid themselves of the statutory obligation to include a proportion of affordable housing by pleading lack of viability, based on the presumption in the planning guidelines that they should make a 20% return on their projects.

In 2019/20 the provisional figure for affordable houses created in the borough was 23, less than a third of the target of 75, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee was told in August. The net number of new homes built was 119, well below the target of 200.

Highest funding commitment

According to housing secretary Robert Jenrick, the current initiative represents the highest single funding commitment to affordable housing in a decade. He stressed the home ownership opportunities on offer, saying that, “More families across the country will be able to realise their dreams of owning their own home, with half of these homes being made available for ownership.”

A right to shared ownership will be available on the vast majority of rented homes delivered through the new programme, though it will not apply to council homes, supported housing and homes where the landlord is a cooperative housing association or a community land trust.

Shared ownership terms are being eased, with the minimum initial share a prospective owner can buy reduced from 25% to 10%, after which additional shares can be bought in 1% instalments. A 10-year period is being introduced during which the landlord will cover the cost of any repairs and maintenance.

Meanwhile, on behalf of East Sussex local authorities HBC has been allocated £964,300 under the ministry’s Next Steps Accommodation Programme to help keep vulnerable people, including rough sleepers, housed while permanent accommodation is sought for them. Bids have also been submitted for a £161m fund intended to provide over 3,300 additional supported homes this year for those sleeping rough or currently housed in emergency accommodation.


Posted 20:17 Wednesday, Sep 23, 2020 In: Home Ground

1 Comment

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. DAR

    The “housing crisis” is indirectly caused by out-of-control net migration: getting an effective grip on this issue will reduce demand significantly. Meanwhile, it’s time to call a halt to inappropriate development in Hastings and elsewhere (see West Marina – building by the sea isn’t a good idea these days, Harrow Lane Playing Fields etc.). Deserted shop units in the town centre could help the situation.

    Comment by DAR — Thursday, Sep 24, 2020 @ 10:50

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