Housing associations ‘should be set free’

12 Nov 14
Housing associations should be freed up to select their own social tenants, set their own rent policies and build more homes, Policy Exchange has proposed.

In its Freeing housing associations report, published today, the think-tank said England’s 1,500 housing associations were being stifled by diminishing capital grant funding and regulatory restrictions that prevented them from potentially building up to 100,000 new homes a year.

Policy Exchange proposed allowing housing associations to buy out their historic government grant, which ties them to many of these rules and regulations. This would have the added benefit of raising £1.5bn for the Treasury by 2020.

Report author Chris Walker said: ‘We are in the midst of a serious and growing housing problem. Nowhere near enough homes are being built. Only by building 300,000 new homes every year are we going to come close to meeting growing demand.

‘Housing associations want to make an even bigger contribution than they do now – with more affordable and market homes – but they cannot. We need to free them up to do it. As well as releasing them from the antiquated regulatory constraints, this means stopping local authorities from dumping the most anti-social tenants on housing associations and given them freedom to set their own rents.’

Grant-free housing associations would be able to sell off expensive social homes to build more social homes without first having to seek permission from the Homes and Communities Agency, the report recommended. The Help to Buy scheme should also be extended for new homes beyond 2020 for housing associations to allow them to build more market homes for sale.

Neil Hadden, chief executive, at Genesis Housing Association, endorsed the proposals, saying: ‘Housing associations are already a key part of the solution to housing supply issues, but the sector could achieve even more if it was unshackled from excessive financial and regulatory constraints.

‘Giving well-performing providers independent status and the green light to buy out historical grant would free them up to do what they do best.’


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