Friday, 9 October 2015

Don't forget the older people Mr Cameron!

At the Conservative Party conference last week David Cameron announced plans to change the requirements to build affordable rented homes in new developments so developers can build 'starter homes' instead of homes to be leased at affordable or social rents.

It forms part of the Party's commitment to build 200,000 new homes by the end of the next Parliament. Cameron says putting the emphasis on owning, rather than renting, will get more people on the housing ladder.

The devil is in the detail though as these starter homes will be sold at 80% market rents to people under 40.

This does nothing for older people. There are 3,500 people on the County Durham housing waiting list over 65 years old. Even people in this group who would prefer to buy are at a disadvantage as they are often refused mortgage due to their age,  so if they don’t have the capital in a previously owned home, they couldn’t raise a mortgage to buy.  It all smacks of ageism.

At the same as asking for new homes to be built – and it’s worth pointing out here that the failure to build more homes can be attributed to numerous previous Governments, including the Labour administrations – the current Government has also imposed a 1% rent reduction on social housing providers for the next four years, something which experts have predicted could mean 14,000 less affordable homes being built. This came from the same Chancellor who in 2013 told us that social housing rents could increase by 1% more than inflation for the next ten years.

Like all housing associations, DAMHA based its business plan on these planned increases but now we are effectively having to rip this up and start again, with extra savings having to be found. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that not building homes will represent substantial savings to housing associations, particular when you consider that grants have also been cut to less than 20%, meaning we can’t borrow as much from the banks to build.

Coupled with the planned rent to buy extension, and ongoing welfare reforms it all appears to be doom and gloom for the sector, but it is important we remain strong and continue to make the best use of the resources at our disposal, whilst offering excellent value for money.

It is pleasing that over the last 12 months DAMHA has continued to provide new, modern, level access two-bedroom bungalows across the former Durham coalfield, whilst also continuing to update and upgrade our existing homes.

I can guarantee that despite all the pressures, and the best efforts of David Cameron to ‘reform’ the sector, we will continue in the same vein throughout 2015 and into 2016 and beyond.

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