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Prime minister in £2 billion pledge to boost social housing


Prime minister Theresa May has pledged another £2 billion of government funding to help the social housing sector build more homes.

The announcement was made on 18th September as Mrs May addressed the National Housing Federation summit in central London.

Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy last year, the prime minister has made it a stated mission of hers to transform the social housing sector, with changed attitudes, better and safer living conditions for those residing in such properties and an increased output of new homes.

A key policy has been to back social housing providers that are best able to deliver new projects with large numbers of new social homes.

She told the event that funding has been forthcoming in response to the wishes of the sector for more stable finance to make possible greater levels of construction, and now there will be a lot more money available.

The prime minister remarked: “You said that if you were going to take a serious role in not just managing but building the homes this country needs, you had to have the stability provided by long-term funding deals.

“Well, eight housing associations have already been given such deals, worth almost £600 million and paving the way for almost 15,000 new affordable homes.

“And today, I can announce that new longer-term partnerships will be opened up to the most ambitious housing associations through a ground-breaking £2 billion initiative.”

She went on to state that housing associations will be able to apply for grants right up until 2028-29, which was the longest commitment of this type any government has ever made. This, she suggested, will make it much easier for social housing providers to “leverage” further investment money from the private sector.

All this, she noted, came on top of steps such as creating more long-term certainty on rents and the decision not to extend the local housing allowance cap to the social sector.

The message she was sending out was clear: housing associations that commit to developing many more homes will get the backing of the government.

Indeed, the prime minister went further. Rather than just offering a pale imitation of the private sector and building a fraction of the number of homes, she told representatives of the social housing sector they can achieve what the commercial sector can’t, using their own particular expertise.

This will involve “creating the kind of large-scale, high-quality developments this country needs requires a special kind of leadership – leadership you are uniquely well-placed to provide”.

The prime minister concluded by urging housing associations to play their part in eliminating the “stigma” associated with living in social housing, noting: “Our friends and neighbours who live in social housing are not second-rate citizens”.

Responding to the announcement, National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr welcomed the pledge.

It was not just about the money, he emphasised, stating that the “really big” news was the long-term commitment made by Mrs May to funding affordable housing.

This represents a “total step change” in policy, demonstrating confidence in the role the social sector can play in housing provision. This, he said, will have a “huge impact” on affordable house building.

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