Crisis in housing is being tackled by associations

Amberley affordable housing scheme.
Amberley affordable housing scheme.
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CONCERNS have been expressed about the impact proposed changes to the welfare system will have on families needing decent affordable homes in West Sussex.

Proposed benefit cuts with limits put on local housing allowances, are expected to have an adverse impact on those seeking homes in one of the most expensive parts of the country.

Warren Finney, South East lead manager at the National Housing Federation, told the West Sussex Gazette this week: “Like most of the country, West Sussex has a severe shortage of affordable homes. Housing associations are playing a vital role in providing good quality homes across the region and local authorities share our desire to carry on doing so.

“We remain extremely concerned about the impact of proposed changes to the welfare reform system, which may have unintended consequences on families seeking decent, affordable homes in West Sussex.”

“We need to effectively support the building of new affordable homes and councils should also be encouraged to identify all suitable surplus land and make it available for that purpose.

“There is a serious need to develop a range of robust and quality alternatives to home ownership that people, from all income groups, can rely on.”

Figures just revealed cite Horsham as an example and show that in West Sussex there were just 750 new affordable homes with 52 of them in Horsham.

The 2010 waiting list was 19,523 households (1,154 in Horsham), equivalent to around 50,000 people, more than 36 per cent up on 2005, although Horsham bucked the trend by being down almost 20 per cent.

In 2010/11, the number of households accepted by local authorities as being homeless and in priority need was 537 with more than a quarter of those (125) in Horsham.

The National Housing Federation has praised housing associations for stepping into the breach in a challenging environment – after the Government confirmed that associations are to build the vast majority of the nation’s new affordable homes over the next four years.

Ministers revealed that housing associations will build around 90 per cent of the 170,000 affordable homes set to be constructed nationally up to March 2015.

It is understood that the homes planned for the next four years will be made up of 90,000 homes that were already earmarked under the previous government’s housebuilding programme and 80,000 homes that will be delivered through the Government’s new funding model – which was announced by the Chancellor last year.

For the 80,000 homes, according to Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) figures the South East and East of England areas will deliver the most homes (14,432) of any region outside London - or 18.04 per cent of the overall total, whilst only receiving 13.1 per cent (or £229,967,259) of the overall money.

Subject to contract, the total number is made up of 10,874 affordable rent homes and 3,558 affordable home ownership homes.

Mr Finney said: “These much-needed homes will support communities in villages and towns in West Sussex and across the South East, as well as playing an important role in economic growth and recovery.

“Housing associations have been innovative and imaginative in delivering excellent value for money and delivering high quality homes.”

“There are 215,373 households on waiting lists at the moment in the South East. That’s more than half a million people for whom getting a home has become a lifelong dream and we cannot let them down.”

The Federation believes that the revelation that housing associations are going to build the vast majority of the nation’s affordable homes over the next four years - despite the Government slashing the housebuilding budget by 63 per cent in October - is testament to their innovation and ability to manage risk.

Under the new model, affordable homes will be part-funded through the charging of near market rents instead of through substantial capital subsidy. As has traditionally been the case, associations will continue to pay the overwhelming majority of the cost of new homes, through the raising of private finance.

The HCA estimates that of the 80,000 homes built under the new funding model, of which associations will build around 85 per cent, the average property will be let out at 72-73 per cent of the full market rate.