This report is a valuable contribution to that debate on the futures of rent setting, on housing association role in providing production such as homeownership products and on the future structure of the sector.
It expertly outlines the context with an eloquent overview of history housing associations relationship with government. It is a well-researched demonstration that the housing sector, or elements of it at least, are supportive of government's aims of increasing home ownership and delivery of 200,000 new homes a year.
Fundamentally it proposes a ‘New Settlement’ which would act as a ‘City Deal’ type of framework, with a number of voluntary deals called ‘Housing Deals’, negotiated between Government (either National or Devolved) and individual housing associations. These time-limited deals would give the housing associations signing up to them access to investments, freedoms and flexibilities – especially over rent setting. Housing associations would, in turn, have to deliver on a set of commitments to the Government, such as a set development target. It also makes recommendations on encouraging homes ownership and sector including the introduction of Right to Part Buy and a Homeownership Allowance for Right to Buy tenants to pay for repairs.
It is well researched and beautifully written. Some of its recommendations are much needed such as Almshouses and very small housing associations being placed back under the Charities Commission and removed from the Housing Regulator’s control. But it hasn’t fully convinced me of the logic of deals, or some of the right to buy proposals. I see two main flaws in the deals proposed in this paper. Firstly, the housing associations in question are already delivering, and are ambitious and are finding ways to deliver more new homes. In my experience, those that would go for a ‘deal’ are unlikely to be the ones government feels need the ‘kick up the bum’ regarding development. Secondly, surely this would be complicated for government to administer? Separate deals that need agreeing and monitoring take staff time. Why not grant more flexibility to all HA’s, and while we are at it for local authorities too? While it would be treating the sector as a whole, it would also give HA’s the room to follow their own rent setting policies and react to local need on both affordability and new build.
Ultimately, even if you don’t agree with all of its recommendation, this is definitely a thought provoking read. It’s not presenting a pie in the sky argument, but a well thought out, and well presented, a potential option for government.