week the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) published its
prospectus for the 2015-18 Affordable Housing Programme, giving
details of bidding arrangements for £1.7 billion in grant funding
for new social housing outside London. Details of the London
arrangements are included in The Mayor's
Housing Covenant: Funding Prospectus 2015-2018. Comparison of
the two documents makes interesting reading.
In his Ministerial foreword to the HCA prospectus, Kris Hopkins
makes it clear that successful bidders will need to minimise the
grant needed to fund each new home by selling vacant properties or
converting them to affordable or rent. Councils are exhorted to
make local authority land available for new developments to further
The prospectus itself states: "we will expect bidders to explain
how many properties they are planning to sell to fund the programme
and why they have chosen not to dispose of more ... Providers
should include evidence of how they identify properties with high
market values, or which are costly to maintain, and their approach
to deciding whether to hold, sell or convert these properties to
What is conspicuously absent from this passage is any
acknowledgement of the main reason why social landlords may be
reluctant to dispose of "high value" properties. Location,
location, location is of course the main determinant of property
value, and social homes of higher value are nearly all to be found
in the more expensive areas.
To look at the question of disposals solely in terms of asset
management and maximising housing supply ignores any priority that
may be given locally to creating or sustaining mixed communities.
The social costs of further intensifying social segregation are
completely ignored in the HCA prospectus.
The Mayor's approach is somewhat different. His proposal is that
all new Affordable Rented homes should be cross-subsidised from the
provision of market housing for rent or sale to reduce the call on
government grant. "All providers," his prospectus states," will be
expected to provide market housing for rent and/or sale alongside
of their Affordable Housing offer, where it if financially
sustainable for them to do so."
Forty per cent of the £1.25 billion available for London in
2015-18 is earmarked for low cost home ownership programmes -
shared ownership, "rent to save" and equity loans. Half the
remainder will be used to fund standard Affordable Rent housing at
up to market rents, and the remainder allocated for capped rent
properties "for households in the greatest need".
On the question of disposals, his prospectus is less directive
than the HCA's: bidders are encouraged only to "give consideration
to targeting disposals, or letting at market rents, of selective
high-value or non-standard stock, where appropriate". Conversions
of existing stock are particularly encouraged "as a way of
introducing a range of incomes into mono-tenure estates".
Some may wish to challenge the Mayor's priorities and the
distribution of resources between households on the lowest and
rather higher incomes. However, his approach does at least signal
that the impact of "asset management" decisions on the social mix
of new and existing housing developments deserves serious
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