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Relationship Manager commentary: Ian Heesom

Blogs Published: November 8, 2021 11:56 am

Comment from Ian Heesom, Relationship Manager, Unity Trust Bank

The Future of Social Housing

“The social housing sector is continuing to feel the effects of the pandemic, with stats from the National Housing Federation (NHF) showing that properties built by housing associations fell by a fifth last year. A backlog of maintenance and retrofitting, paired with demand to meet new regulations and environmental targets, means that the future availability of good-quality affordable homes is at risk of being in limited supply.

“During the pandemic, the Coronavirus Act offered a safety net to protect tenants, and led to a dramatic fall in evictions to fewer than 800 in 2020. However, now that the Act has lifted, and the cost of living and rent increases, this is a crucial period to ensure that disadvantaged communities aren’t marginalised in the next few years.

“For example, the Housing First initiative, which is being trialled in Greater Manchester, Liverpool and West Midlands combined authority areas, is coming to the end of its three-year pilot period, but its provisions of emergency accommodation and wraparound support have been a lifeline for rough sleepers in the participating regions. It’s not clear whether the government will be extending the national scheme as part of its £640million pledge to tackle homelessness, but hundreds of individuals could be at risk of returning to the streets if the programme draws to a close.

“The Places for Everyone plan is an important step in stimulating housebuilding in the Greater Manchester region and ensuring access to sustainable and affordable housing for all. Unity Trust Bank is committed to supporting this initiative as part of our alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Goals that strive to achieve a better and more sustainable future for everyone.

“We recently worked with Cornerstone Place to develop apartments in Audenshaw, which will be handed over to the homelessness charity, Stepping Stones Projects, to manage and eventually buy outright. With an ambition to create 1,000 rooms for rough sleepers over the next five years, Cornerstone’s unique business model offers innovative housing solutions for its charity partners, providing safe accommodation, a long-term income stream and an enhanced balance sheet.

“Elsewhere, existing social housing providers are under pressure to meet the EPC rating of ‘C’ by 2030, as set out in the government’s Clean Growth Strategy. Although the first wave of grants from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund will be awarded in January, and heat pump grants will begin to be distributed next year, there’s still a lot of work to be done in the next ten years to meet government goals.

“It’s estimated that 44% of social homes in England are currently falling short of the required efficiency rating, and research of 138 housing associations earlier this year found that only 1.5% of new builds meet the gold standard ‘A’ rating. Retrofitting comes at an expense, and landlords will understandably need greater support if they are to avoid transferring these costs on to their tenants.

“The social housing sector undoubtedly has a challenging path to navigate over the next decade, whilst continuing its instrumental role in creating accessible spaces, affordable accommodation and an enhanced quality of life for some of the most vulnerable people in society. Our priority is to work closely with customers to ensure they have access to sustainable finance that addresses their individual needs, enabling them to meet the necessary requirements, and ultimately protect the end user.”

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