LGA warns May’s focus on associations ‘misses the point’ about council-led building
The Conservative head of the Local Government Association (LGA) has hit back after Theresa May suggested councils are not able to build at the same scale as housing associations.
Councils hit back after May comments #ukhousing
In a landmark speech to the National Housing Summit today, the prime minister said she wants housing associations to lead on creating “large-scale, high-quality developments” because the sector can “achieve things neither private developers nor local authorities are capable of doing”.
She pointed to the Thamesmead Estate in south east London, which is currently being regenerated by Peabody after two councils had “problems dealing with the unique challenges and opportunities” of the project.
But Lord Gary Porter, chair of the LGA and leader of South Holland District Council, said Ms May’s comment “misses the point about why we are not able to build at scale”.
“Since RSLs [registered social landlords] took over building social housing they’ve built around 40,000 a year, we have never got to the numbers we need to have as a country,” he told Inside Housing.
“That’s not to blame the RSLs, it’s because we have not been part of that mix as councils.
“And what we need to do is get the Treasury to get off our backs. I don’t need more money, I just need freedom so I can spend my money.
“Let me deal with Right to Buy in the way that works for my area and then get Housing Revenue Account debt off the government balance sheet because there’s no need for it to be there – and then job’s a good’un and we can start fixing the housing crisis before the end of parliament.”
However, Mr Porter did also praise the prime minister for emphasising the value of social housing.
In her speech, Mrs May said the rise of social housing “brought about the end of the slums and tenements, a recognition that all of us, whoever we are and whatever our circumstances, deserve a decent place to call our own”.
In a statement, the LGA said: “Councils have always been proud of their housing and tenants and the positive recognition of social housing by the prime minister today must be shared by all.”
The government has offered councils £1bn of additonal borrowing headroom to build new homes, but this is limited to areas where there is a large gap between private and social rents. It will not be available until April 2019.
Councils have long called for caps on the amount they can borrow to be lifted to allow them to build new social housing at scale.
More on Theresa May’s NHF speech
All our coverage of Theresa May’s historic speech on 19 September, 2018, in one place:
Orr: ‘penny has dropped’ for government on housing The outgoing chief executive of the National Housing Federation gives his take on May’s speech
LGA warns May’s focus on associations ’misses the point’ about council-led building Reaction to the announcements from Lord Gary Porter, chair of the Local Government Association
Sector leaders hail ‘huge significance’ of May’s NHF speechHousing figures welcome the Prime Minister’s speech to the National Housing Federation’s annual conference in London
May’s speech shows a significant change in attitude towards the sector When was the last time a Conservative prime minister made a speech more favourable to social housing?, asks Jules Birch
In full: Theresa May’s speech to the National Housing Summit The full text of the Prime Minister’s historic speech
Theresa May throws support behind housing associations in landmark speech Read more about Theresa May’s speech which signalled a change in tone from the government towards housing associations
May’s new £2bn funding will not be available until 2022 Homes England clarifies the timescale for allocation of the new money promised by the Prime Minister
Morning Briefing: Labour hits back at May’s £2bn housing pledgeShadow housing secretary John Healey says May’s pledges are not enough
May to announce £2bn for strategic partnerships with associations at NHF conference The details released overnight ahead of the speech