Homes For The South West – Winter Newsletter

Victor da Cunha, Chair of Homes for the South West

As we approach the end of the year, I wanted to share our quarterly newsletter on the latest developments and issues of interest affecting housing in the South West.

I’d like to first start by acknowledging the importance of the coroner’s verdict on the death of Awaab Ishak in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. This was a tragic event that should never have happened and I would like to offer my reassurance that as a sector we are taking quality and mould and damp issues extremely seriously and are acting to ensure nothing like this happens again in a housing association home. If you have any questions or are interested in learning more about the measures that our member associations have in place, please do get in touch directly.

To you all, I would like to reinforce that we remain ready to listen and work with Government, MPs and Councils to ensure all our residents live in safe and secure homes.

Looking ahead to what should be a time of celebration as we enter the Christmas period, we cannot ignore the hardships that many are experiencing across the country, faced with the cost of living crisis, inflationary pressures and high energy bills. As housing associations, we have a key role to play as community partners and we are taking dedicated steps to support our residents through this time.

We welcomed the Autumn Statement this November which saw the Government taking dedicated steps to support the most vulnerable, including providing an uplift in benefits payments. They also announced a capping of rent increases in social housing, and we agree that this will help to support residents through the current cost of living pressures. We have, however, alerted government to the fact that this cap will have a detrimental effect on housing associations’ development pipelines and will reduce our delivery of new homes by up to 10%.

We have followed the progression of the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill through the Commons with interest, welcoming the latest provisions from Government on a registration scheme for short-term lets – something we have long campaigned for in the South West where these impacts are acutely felt and we look forward to seeing the outcome of the Government’s September consultation.

The New Year will see the publication of our report with the University of the West of England on the affordable housing picture in the region – as the most granular analysis on local housing need, we look forward to engaging with many of you on the report’s findings.

The New Year will provide a period of uncertainty for many, but as housing associations our key priority and focus will remain providing the safe, affordable and quality housing that our residents need. We remain open as always to listen to our stakeholders and community partners and I am grateful for the conversations I have enjoyed with many of you over the past year, seeing the passion for both our local communities and the region.

I look forward to being in touch in the New Year and send you our best wishes over the winter holidays.

Victor da Cunha
Chair, Homes for the South West

Funding for Levelling Up

In November, we submitted our response to a new inquiry from the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee Inquiry on “Funding for Levelling Up”.

As Homes for the South West, we are committed to ensuring that the acute needs of the region are reflected in the levelling up agenda and dedicated funding streams. Our response reflected the findings from a report we have commissioned from the University of the West of England which highlights the unique challenges faced by the region, with both higher median house prices than England as a whole, yet some of the lowest median individual earnings in the country.

We will continue to engage in the inquiry and look forward to reading the Committee’s final report.

Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill

As the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill completes its stages in the Commons, we were pleased to see the introduction of amendments to support the introduction of a registration scheme for short-term lets.

This is an issue we have campaigned on previously, recognising the lack of centralised reporting which makes it impossible to quantify the full picture in the region and impact on local housing supply. We submitted to the Government consultation on a tourism accommodation registration scheme this September and look forward to reading the final outcome on how this will be implemented.

We remain concerned however about the Bill’s provisions on the infrastructure levy, with the potential impact on affordable housing delivery. We believe amendments to support the delivery of affordable housing on site, and the ring-fencing of Levy funds for housing with affordable housing requirements levels within each development not to decrease, could protect this.

As the Bill progresses to the second chamber, we look forward to continuing to engage with our stakeholders in the House of Lords on the Bill’s provisions.

Local Engagement

It is vital that as housing associations we are listening to our local stakeholders and we have been delighted to meet with a number of you over the past few months to discuss the challenges facing affordable housing and how we can best meet local needs in the region. As always, please do not hesitate to get in touch if you would be interested in talking to us and we look forward to meeting with many of you in the New Year.

It has also been terrific to meet with our Local Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships recently to discuss how we can best assist with the delivery of Local Plans and ensure residents’ needs are being heard. This included an introductory meeting with the association for council leaders, South West Councils, earlier in the year where we gave a presentation on local need.

Looking ahead to the New Year, we look forward to scheduled meetings with the leaders of Stroud District Council, Somerset County Council, South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council.

Housing Our Key Workers

Lastly, we were delighted to pen a short article with Selaine Saxby, the MP for North Devon, in the Western Morning News this past month. This outlined the importance of housing our key workers, so that businesses can fulfil their potential and hospitals and schools can recruit the key workers needed to support public services – and, crucially, allowing residents to be able to afford to live locally and near to their place of work.