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Policy update

Policy developments in other parts of the UK


LHA freeze ends for now

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced an end to the four-year freeze in Local Housing Allowance rates in his Autumn Statement.

The decision means that LHA will be restored to the 30th percentile of local rents from April, with indicative rates for broad rental market areas across England, Wales and Scotland announced in January.

However, the small print of the Autumn Statement revealed that a fresh freeze is already pencilled in to future spending plans from 2025 onwards.

LHA is the form of housing benefit paid to private renters but rates have been frozen since 2020/21 and have only matched the cheapest local rents in two of the last ten years. Rising rent arrears and evictions have been a major driver of homelessness.

The indicative rates for 2024/25 are based on rents in September 2023, meaning they will already be out of date by April.

Meanwhile, thousands of private renter households will see no increase in their LHA because they will hit benefit caps that were kept at 2023/24 levels.


New deadlines to fix hazards

Housing secretary Michael Gove launched a consultation on new legal requirements for social landlords to address hazards including damp and mould quickly.

The plans to clamp down on landlords that fail to provide safe homes is designed to implement the government’s pledge to introduce Awaab’s Law following the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak from a respiratory condition linked to exposure to mould in his family’s housing association flat in Rochdale.

The consultation proposes new legal requirements for social landlords to investigate hazards within 14 days, start fixing them within a further 7 days, and make emergency repairs within 24 hours. Landlords who fail can be taken to court where they may be ordered to pay compensation for tenants.

Landlords will be expected to keep clear records to improve transparency for tenants – showing every attempt is made to comply with the new timescales so they can no longer dither and delay to rectify people’s homes.

Michael Gove said: ‘Today is about stronger and more robust action against social landlords who have refused to take their basic responsibilities seriously for far too long. We will force them to fix their homes within strict new time limits and take immediate action to tackle dangerous damp and mould to help prevent future tragedies.’

B&B use soars to new records

The number of homeless households in temporary accommodation in England rose to 105,750, beating the record high of the mid-2000s, in official government figures.

The 10.5 per cent increase in the year to the end of June means 68,070 families with 138,930 children are now in temporary accommodation.

There were 14,090 homeless households in B&Bs in the second quarter, up 37.6 per cent on a year before.

That is the highest total in statistics that go back to 1998 and is also now higher than in the aftermath of the housing market crash in the early 1990s.

Within that total, there were 4,480 families with children, an increase of 93 per cent on a year ago.

And within that total, there were 2,510 families with children who had been in B&Bs for more than the six-week legal limit, an increase of 39 per cent on three months ago, and 146 per cent on a year before.


Housing budget cut by a quarter

The Scottish Government cut its Affordable Housing Supply Programme by 26 per cent in its draft budget for 2024/25 and scrapped a fuel insecurity fund for social tenants.

The £196 million reduction for next year means the programme has been cut by 37 per cent in the last two years

Housing minister Paul McLennan said: ‘Scotland is facing the most challenging budget settlement since devolution because of sustained high inflation and a UK Government Autumn Statement that failed to deliver the investment needed in Scotland’s public services.

‘The UK Government did not inflation-proof its capital budget which has resulted in a 9.8 per cent real terms cut in our capital funding between 2023/24 and 2027/28.

‘We will bring forward to 2024 a review of our target to deliver 110,000 affordable homes by 2032 with a focus on the delivery timeline.’

Sally Thomas, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, said: ‘Whilst there has been a 10 per cent cut in capital funding from the UK Government, this neither explains nor justifies the severe cut of 26 per cent to affordable housing in Scotland.’

CIH Scotland director Callum Chomczuk said: ‘With new house building starts massively down compared with 12 months ago, construction costs rising and three of Scotland’s local authorities declaring housing emergencies this year, today was the moment to address the crisis. Earlier this year the Scottish Housing Regulator warned of systemic failure in our homelessness services.  But today’s announcement does not address the risk and pressures faced by local authority housing and homelessness services. The cash terms cut in the more homes budget of around £200 million compared with 23-24 is devastating for our social housing supply programme and our plans to end homelessness.’

Northern Ireland

Political deadlock delays retrofit

Housing associations warned that Northern Ireland is ‘standing still’ on social housing decarbonisation because of the continuing deadlock at Stormont.

The Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations warned that the province was at risk of falling even further behind the rest of the UK because it has had no functioning government for almost two years.

Seamus Leheny, chief executive of the NIFHA, said: ‘While we all wait for a restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and a potential new public services funding model, in the absence of an executive and political decision-making, we will be lagging behind for generations when it comes to the decarbonisation of our housing stock.

‘We are aware that financial pressures are faced right across government, and that many departments will be putting their case forward, but the social housing sector is clear that a retrofitting programme should be prioritised.’

Welsh Government

Draft Budget dashes housing support hopes

Hopes of an increase in housing support funding were dashed in a Draft Budget for 2024/25 that finance minister Rebecca Evans said left even the NHS and local councils facing a difficult year ahead.

She said that Welsh ministers faced the ‘most stark and painful budget choices for Wales in the devolution era’ as they developed the Draft Budget. Thanks to persistently high inflation, she said the overall budget is worth £1.3 billion less in real terms than when it was set in 2021 and that the settlement, which largely comes from the UK government in block grant, is not sufficient enough to respond to the extreme pressures that public services, businesses and people are facing.

Within the climate change budget, Housing Support Grant (HSG) was maintained in cash terms at £166.8 million for 2024/25 but this amounts to a cut in real terms after allowing for inflation.

Meanwhile a £5 million increase in the homelessness prevention budget proposed in the 2024/25 indicative budget was reduced to £2 million in the Draft Budget.

Capital investment was maintained with decisions including:

  • £365 million in 2024/25 for building new low-carbon social homes through the Social Housing Grant.
  • £92 million to support decarbonisation of existing social housing
  • £108 million for LSVT Dowry payments
  • £127 million in building safety
  • £35 million to tackle fuel poverty
  • £4 million for the Homebuy scheme
  • £8 million to tackle violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence
  • £38.5 million for the Discretionary Assistance Fund.

Rebecca Evans said: ‘We have been presented with the most stark and painful budget choices in the devolution era. We have reshaped departmental spending plans so that we can invest more in the NHS and protect core local government funding for schools, social care and the other services we rely on every day.

‘While the UK government has not provided Wales with a funding settlement that recognises the impact of inflation, we have made changes to our spending plans and targeted investment towards the public services we all value the most.’

Cymorth Cymru and Community Housing Cymru had warned ahead of the draft budget that homelessness services were on the brink of collapse without more funding.

Rent rise capped at 6.7%

Social housing rents in Wales will rise by a maximum of 6.7 per cent from April 2024, climate change minister Julie James announced in October.

The increase is in line with the Consumer Price Index CPI inflation rate in September 2023 and follows an agreement between Welsh Government and housing associations and local authorities last year on supporting people in social rented accommodation as part of the wider commitment to end homelessness in Wales.

The minister said: ‘Last year, I made the decision to cap the social housing rent uplift below the level of inflation to provide additional support to our social housing tenants as they faced pressures from the rising costs of food, energy and other household goods.

‘It is vital that we continue do all that we can to support those who face severe financial hardship, which is why I have made the decision to set the maximum uplift cap at the level of inflation.’

Stuart Ropke, chief executive of Community Housing Cymru, said: ‘Setting rent is one of the most important decisions not-for-profit housing associations make, and they don’t take it lightly. It is a decision that carefully balances what is affordable for individual tenants with investing in the high quality homes and core services that they rely on. The permitted rent settlement is a ceiling, not a target. Housing associations will now set rents locally by engaging with tenants and using tools to understand affordability.’

By contrast, social housing rents in England will rise by 7.7 per cent (CPI plus 1 per cent) from April.

Help to Stay Wales launched

A new scheme from Welsh Government could help hundreds of home owners in Wales who are struggling with soaring mortgage costs.

The Help to Stay Wales mortgage support scheme offers equity loans to struggling owners for up to 15 years that will be interest-free for the first five years.

As part of the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru, a commitment was made to explore local authority mortgages. Help to Stay Wales Scheme has been considered as part of discussions about the mortgage market and how we can provide targeted support.

As part of the budget agreement with Plaid Cymru for 2023-24, £40 million repayable capital funding is available to bring forward schemes to provide flexible financial support.

Help is available for up to 450 struggling borrowers. People with a household income of up to £67,000 and homes worth up to £300,000 could be eligible but the scheme will pay for independent financial advice to check if it is right for them.

Help to Stay Wales will work alongside support offered by mortgage providers through the UK Mortgage Charter for customers who are struggling to afford their mortgage payments.

The scheme provides an option for homeowners who are at serious risk of losing their home by offering a partial repayment of an existing mortgage balance via a low-cost equity loan, secured by a second charge (behind first charge lender), reducing revised mortgage repayments to a level the applicant can afford.

The scheme is being operated by the Development Bank of Wales and will be interest free for the first five years. After that, the equity loan will be charged at 2 per cent above the Bank of England base rate.

Mortgage Rescue, which has operated in Wales since 2008, is still available and is seen as a valuable last resort, but requires people to already be in possession proceedings to qualify for support. Help to Stay Wales extends this to include those facing possession proceedings and/or financial hardship.

Welsh Government hopes that by acting now with increased investment it can prevent many people entering possession proceedings and becoming homeless, adding to the already stressed waiting lists and high temporary accommodation costs for local authorities.

Farm site set for 500 homes

Climate Change Minister Julie James approved the proposed sale of the Upper Cosmeston Farm site on the outskirts of Penarth, inviting proposals which are required to meet new and demanding net zero carbon living standards.

Residential development of the land will see more than 500 new homes being built, with a requirement for 50 per cent to be affordable to support the Welsh Government’s commitment to deliver 20,000 affordable homes by 2026.

Development of the land owned by the Welsh Government was established in the Vale of Glamorgan Local Development Plan and will also see a new primary school, public open spaces, an active travel route and community facilities also being constructed.

Savills is managing the sale on behalf of Welsh Government and is inviting stage 1 expressions of interest by January 29.


Open consultations of interest to WHQ readers include

A Fairer Council Tax – phase 2 – reponses by 6 February


Welsh Housing Awards winners revealed

Winners of the Chartered Institute of Housing’s (CIH) Welsh Housing Awards were announced at a special ceremony at the Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel at the end of November.

The winners are:

Excellence in customer service

Monmouthshire Homesearch – customer excellence in a digital age – Monmouthshire Housing Association

Excellence in health & wellbeing

RHA Wales (Hapus & BeActive RCT) – RHA Wales

Excellence in housing innovation

Pen Y Dre Apartments/Compass Community Hub – Merthyr Tydfil CBC in partnership with Merthyr Valley Homes

Working in partnership

STAR housing model – United Welsh and Caerphilly Council in partnership with Platfform

Sustainability in housing

Thornhill Decarb Project – Hafod in partnership with SERS Ltd

Excellence in championing equality and diversity

Equality Matters – Newydd Housing Association

Supporting communities

NU Life – Cadwyn Housing Association

Delivering high quality homes 

The Mill – Lovell Tirion Homes in partnership with Principality Building Society and Welsh Government

Housing team of the year

Caerphilly empty homes team – Caerphilly County Borough Council

Community focussed contractor 

Pentwyn Drive – Willis Construction

Positive placemaking

RHA Little Shed – RHA Wales

Supporting independent living

Supported living – Caredig

Excellence in professionalism 

Hafod’s principles and behaviours framework – Hafod

Young achiever in housing

Carys Wiggins – Taff Housing.

CIH Cymru director Matt Dicks said: ‘It is fantastic to see so many positive examples of innovation from the sector in Wales. I’d like to share my heartfelt congratulations with the winners, nominees and everyone who submitted an entry to the awards. All the entries had an incredibly high standard of innovation and delivery that we should all be proud of.’

Money advice team helps tenant gain £25,000

Trivallis housing association’s money advice team has uncovered uncover a whopping £25,000 worth of annual income for a local resident.

Mrs P, who wished to remain anonymous, was approaching state pension age. When she spoke with her rent account manager, they discovered she hadn’t received the code needed to apply for her pension. This led to a referral to Sue Hoskins, money advice officer at Trivallis, who was able to support Mrs P in starting her pension application.

Mrs P said: ‘I had many confusing letters and was afraid to ask for help. Sue explained things in a very clear way without making me feel silly.’

After sorting out the pension application, Sue conducted a benefit check, revealing additional financial support was available for Mrs P, including state pension credit, housing benefit, council tax reduction, and help with her water bill, totalling an impressive £25,537.75 for the year.

Expressing her gratitude, Mrs P said: ‘I am really grateful for Sue for helping me and making a difference to my life. Not only financially but mentally, as I was struggling to know where to get help. It didn’t matter what question I had; she was able to help.’

Sue Hoskins said: ‘I will say that Mrs P is a rare case, we can’t promise to find that much money for everyone, as much as we would love to. But every little helps in the current situation so, just like Mrs P did, I would encourage everyone to access the support that is available. You have nothing to lose by doing so, but perhaps a lot to gain both financially and emotionally.’

Adra reaches 7,000th home

North Wales housing association Adra is celebrating the milestone of reaching 7,000 homes.

The property in Treborth, near Bangor is part of a four property development on the site of old garages, has been specially designed and adapted to meet the needs of the new tenant.

The home features widened doors, celling hoists, wet room with closomat toilet and a hydraulic kitchen worktop and has an EPC rating of A, with solar panels, air source heat pump, high efficiency insulation and high efficiency windows.

Sarah Schofield, Adra’s director of customers and communities, said: ‘The 7,000 home milestone reflects not only Adra’s dedication to providing quality homes but also our role in supporting the well-being and stability of people and families across the region.’

Publications 10 to look out for

1) Making the case for a Welsh benefits system – people’s experiences

Bevan Foundation, January 2024


2) How could Wales meet energy needs by 2035 while phasing out fossil fuels?

Wales Centre for Public Policy, December 2023


3) Help onto the housing ladder: the role of intergenerational transfers

Institute for Fiscal Studies, December 2023


4) The property owning democracy

Policy Exchange, December 2023


5) Hidden renters: the unseen faces of the rising older rental wave

Independent Age, October 2023


6) Rapid rehousing transition plans: assessing the affordability of the private rented sector for LHA in Scotland

CaCHE, November 2023


7) Homes fit for Londoners: Solving London’s housing crisis

Centre for London, December 2023


8) Heat pumps and domestic heat decarbonisation in the UK: a systems thinking analysis of barriers to adoption

CaCHE, November 2023


9) The key issue: Housing for survivors of modern slavery

Commonweal Housing, October 2023


10) Raising the roof: Building a better private rented sector

Centre for Social Justice, October 2023


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