The think tank, the Policy Exchange, has just published a report on the future of housing associations. It calls for housing associations to be given the ‘freedom’ to set rents and select their own tenants. In other words they will be able to ignore the needs of a locality, not take the poorest into their homes, and to be able to charge whatever they like. They could ignore homes for rent and just build housing to sell.
The ‘upside’ for this would be that they would no longer need government grant (down around 80% since the mid 1980s anyway) and they would be able to build 100,000 homes each year.
Why is this report important? Because the Policy Exchange has the ear of government.
The reality this is increasingly happening, with so-called ‘affordable rents’ now beyond the means of many who, even those in work, have to rely on housing benefit subsidy.
The real problem for me is that social housing is meant to be there for those who can’t compete in the market. Who will house the poor? Who will house those with complex needs?
These large housing associations have been built on the back of public finances – grant and housing benefit. There must be a new settlement but not one that allows them to opt out of responsibility for those for whom they were founded.
If this is what might happen, councils should immediately end their preferential arrangements with these large housing associations and turn to smaller, community-based associations to build the homes that local people need.