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Social Housing Speed Read – a hung parliament

On 9 June, the UK woke up to an unanticipated hung parliament, despite the Conservatives being predicted to return a majority.

In advance of the general election, we looked at what social housing policies were on offer from the main political parties.

The election should have brought clarity as to what the sector can expect going forward; however we are faced with more uncertainty.

The Conservatives

The Conservatives are looking to form a government without a majority as soon as possible, and it is presently looking like the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (“DUP”) could be holding the balance of power.

However, any impact of the Government on housing policy would be limited in Northern Ireland, as housing policy is devolved there.

In the run-up to the election, DUP pledged the following:

  • 8,000 affordable social homes by 2020
  • to provide more community land trusts for affordable homes
  • increased support to tackle homelessness
  • to transform the Northern Ireland Housing Executive into a “strategic housing body”, transfer its stock and give it more powers to tackle vacant properties

Such policies are perhaps not too dissimilar from the Conservatives, who want to make it easier for councils to purchase brownfield sites to encourage more social housing and who pledged a “new generation of homes for social rent”.

A coalition of whatever kind between the Conservatives and the DUP is consequently unlikely be an obstacle to the “Fixing our Broken Housing Market” White Paper being the template for the future.

The Labour Party

Labour is hoping to oust the Conservatives and to form a minority government, with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell suggesting that Labour will put forward a Queen’s Speech, and the party will be banking on the backing of the SNP and minor parties.

SNP’s key social housing policies in the run-up to the election were:

  • a pledge to deliver 35,000 social rented homes (within a total of 50,000 affordable homes) by 2021
  • to mitigate the impact of housing benefit cuts for 18 to 21 year olds
  • to abolish bedroom tax (although this has not been agreed by the UK government).

However, the numbers are in the Conservatives’ favour and as the existing government, the party will have the first opportunity at winning the confidence of the House of Commons.

It can therefore be questioned how likely it is we will see Labour and SNP social housing policies in operation.

Uncertainty

Nicola Harris, chief executive of Stonewater, acknowledges that “it’s a result that creates uncertainty”.

Bjorn Howard, chief executive of Aster Group believes “it was a good sign for the sector that all major parties recognised the need for a focus on housing in their manifestos” but acknowledges that what is needed now “is consistency rather than upheaval” and that “a government must be formed as quickly as possible” so the progress made in supporting housing in recent years can be built on.

One certainty exists for the sectorĀ  – there will be (yet another) new Housing Minister appointed in the near future, following Gavin Barwell’s loss of his Croydon seat.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.