Almos call for borrowing powers
By Richard Johnstone
| 5 July 2011
Arm’s-length management organisations have called for
borrowing powers to allow them to fund housing improvement programmes.
The National Federation of Almos also wants tenants to be
given joint ownership of Almos with councils.
In a report, Building on the
potential of Almos to invest in local communities, the
federation says the joint organisations would give tenants a much greater role in
the running of their estates while also being attractive to private lenders. These
changes require government approval because Almos are currently unable to
access private finance.
The first Almos were created in 2002 to improve the
management of council housing. They run 900,000 council homes across 61 local
authorities in England.
Unlike housing associations, under an Almo, the local
authority retains the housing stock and controls the allocation policy, with
the Almo taking over the management of the properties.
The plan for
community- and council-owned organisations (Cocos) is the preferred of three possible
future models put forward by the NFA. The others are a long-term extension of the
current management contracts with local authorities, or increasing
the role of Almos by allowing them to take over the management of vacant land.
Under Cocos, the Almos would retain a financial relationship
with councils, including servicing any debt when the housing revenue account system is replaced by a self-financing one next April. The
report finds that an ‘average’ Almo authority with 18,000 properties, and a housing
revenue account debt settlement of £180m, could borrow £80m to help improve
homes that do not yet meet the government’s Decent Homes Standard.
NFA chair Alison Inman said: ‘This report is the culmination
of many months of work looking into how the Almo model could evolve beyond
Decent Homes to remain attractive to tenants but also financially viable.
‘The next stage will be for local authorities, tenants and
the government to consider the implications of the new models and to scrutinise
the three options. However, we are confident that Almos have a bright future
and will continue to play an important role at the heart of our communities.’
Last month, accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Smith
Institute think-tank said that the HRA reforms could provide an extra £54bn over 30 years to pay for new homes.