A Big Boost for Affordable Homes

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Housing & Regeneration Article

11 September, 2020

On the 8th September, Robert Jenirck, the housing secretary, announced a £12.2 billion overall investment in affordable housing. Which does include £700 million on new homes through the 2016 to 2022 programme, along with a new £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme which will be delivered over 5 years from 2021 to 2026 and will provide up to 180,000 new homes across the country. The new programme represents the highest single funding commitment to affordable housing in a decade and new homes will be available under the new programme as soon as next year. This will be welcomed by registered providers (including local authorities) ("RPs") as well as developers and will provide a boost to the economy.

The government has also announced that around half of the new homes will be available for affordable home ownership, helping even more people to get a foot on the property ladder. Additionally, in order to support more people from all backgrounds, homes will also be made available for shared ownership, discounted rent, including 10% for supported housing, which will support those with physical or mental health challenges.

This investment will not only be available to new homes in London but nearly £7.5 billion will be delivered outside London by Homes England. This is over £2 billion more than the amount given under the previous Affordable Homes Programme. Which is good news for all the RPs and people in need outside of London. Homes England are due to publish their Affordable Homes Programme prospectus shortly, inviting RPs and private providers to start preparing their bids. With Nick Walkley, Chief Executive of Homes England, commented that, "The fund will support improved productivity in construction and unlock new economic opportunities across the country. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, this long-term funding settlement gives our partners the confidence they need to invest in new homes and the communities they work for".

Additionally, a consultation has been launched to consider how best to raise accessibility standards for all new homes in recognition of the importance of suitable and accessible homes for older and disabled people. The current minimum standard for all new build accessible housing in England requires four main criteria that make it accessible for most people, including wheelchair users, which are, level access to the main entrance, a flush threshold, sufficiently wide doorways and circulation space, and a toilet at entrance level. Additionally, where there is a material alteration to a building's access, the building cannot be made less compliant than it was.

The consultation would look to raise accessible housing standards further, including the option to raise the current minimum standard for all new homes. A higher minimum standard would require additional features including having a living area at entrance level and step-free access to all entrance level rooms and facilities, wider doorways and corridors as well as clear access routes to reach windows. It may also include further features to make homes more easily adaptable over time to a wide range of occupants, including older people, those with reduced mobility and some wheelchair users, for example sanitary provisions that can be adapted easily for installation of grab rails and stairs designed to allow easy fit of a stair lift.

There have also been further announcements in relation to shared ownership homes, further details can be found here.

The announcements also follow proposals unveiled last month to overhaul the planning system, which you can read about in our previous article; Government Planning Proposals - Is This The Way Forward?.

Housing Secretary also said, "Thanks to the range of flexible ownership options being made available, more families across the country will be able to realise their dreams of owning their own home, with half of these homes being made available for ownership". The pandemic and lockdown has changed the way people live and work, and with people spending more time at home and working from home, it is now more important than ever that people love their home and to ensure that it is suitable for their needs.

Building the homes the country needs is a priority for the government and this announcement will no doubt assist with Boris' previous pledge of "Build, Build, Build" and help the country build back better whilst also helping those most vulnerable. We have said on many occasions that RPs nationally are in a robust position to help kick start the economy and are always diversifying to find solutions for their community needs. It might be some time before we get back to normal (or the 'new' normal) but RPs can definitely help us get there and even more so now with funding boost.

For more information contact Lyndsay Baxter in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 01772 220384. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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