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The ARCH annual report for 2015-16 is now available to view.

 

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Manifesto Watch 16/04/2015

Arch Briefing 9/2015

 

With the date of the General Election fast approaching the political parties are launching their election manifestos. We dedicate this edition of the ARCH bulletin to an analysis of the housing promises made by the main political parties in their manifestos.

 

Of course not all manifesto pledges make it into legislation and if, as most commentators predict, there is likely to be another coalition government of some sort there may well be some horse trading in terms of which particular party manifesto pledges make it into the legislative programme of any new coalition government.

 

Copies of the major parties election manifestos together with an analysis of the housing elements of each can be accessed by clicking on the links below but in this introduction it is worth highlighting some of the key manifesto pledges that might have major impact on the stock retained sector made by the 3 current largest major national parties (although that may of course change after the General Election):

 

Labour are promising "more homes by prioritising capital investment for housing and by reforming the council house finance system".

 

This seems to herald further reforms of the self-financing system less than 3 years after it was introduced but this could potentially be beneficial to the sector if, as ARCH has argued in its own manifesto, this leads to lifting of the debt caps and/or reform of the public borrowing rules to classify housing investment separately as is the practice elsewhere in Europe.

 

Conservatives are promising "to extend the right to buy to tenants in housing associations and to fund replacement of properties sold under the right to buy by requiring councils to sell off higher value properties in their area as they fall vacant"

  
Aside from the intrinsic merits or otherwise of extending the RTB to housing association tenants, compelling councils to sell off their higher value stock to help fund this extension of RTB to housing associations seems somewhat unfair on councils and their tenants who have carefully constructed 30 year Business Plans. Such proposals will have significant consequences for some council's HRA Business Plans. It could be argued that if councils are forced to sell their higher value properties and hand over the capital receipts to central government they would, in effect, be paying twice for the privilege.  It is worth remembering that the self-financing settlement in 2012 was based on the value of local authority stock (including any higher value properties) and the majority of councils whose debt was lower than the value of their stock borrowed to pay the difference to the government who received billions from local government in the self-financing settlement in March 2012.

 

Ironically the self-financing system was introduced under the Localism Act 2011 - Arch would argue that any decision to sell off higher value stock should be a matter for local determination by individual local authorities to be taken in consultation with their tenants in the context of their Housing Revenue Account Business Plans.

 

There has been much media interest in the Conservative Party announcement on extension of the Right to Buy and ARCH has issued a press release in response to the announcement.

 

Liberal Democrats are promising to "allow local authorities more flexibility to borrow to build affordable homes including traditional council housing and to devolve full control of the Right to Buy to Councils".  Given the contrasting views on RTB proposed by the Conservative party this should make for interesting debates around the cabinet table on the future of council housing if the two parties were to form a coalition in the next parliament as they did in the last.

 

Whatever the outcome of the election and whichever party or parties form the next government you can be assured that ARCH will continue to argue the case for council housing on behalf of its members and their tenants

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