Social housing in times of crisis
A group of French Directors visited us in London. We told them of the current upheaval: the loss of 63% of development subsidies in exchange for the ability to raise rents to 80% of the market value on new build and vacant properties; the introduction of benefits’ cap, penalty for under-occupation and direct payment to tenants; the backdrop of an economic crisis, rising unemployment and a chronic shortage of affordable homes pushing many into the precarity of private rental.
Our French visitors wanted to know: ‘how do you see your future against such a grim background?’ The response of the housing association was telling in its pragmatism. ‘Yes it is hard’, they said, ‘but we see it as an opportunity to think differently and more creatively.’ The reduction in housing benefits will have an impact on tenants’ and landlords’ revenues. Many are responding by increasing the number of front-line staff as knowing their tenants and circumstances is key. They are building with less grant, generating additional revenue through increases in rents, private sales and rentals. They are creating subsidiaries to operate commercially, hiring the missing skills at executive and board level, seeking new sources of finance.
Housing associations are community organisations committed to their neighbourhoods and their tenants. Most feel they have no choice but to take up the challenge. As their Federation, we are here to ensure new legislations can be worked with.
International Affairs & Funding Officer
National Housing Federation