Comment Some home truths about Mrs May’s ‘good news’...
precisely this policy reversal, he “nearly cried”, describing it excitedly as “absolutely massive. We can deliver half a million units over the course of the next Parliament – a hundred thousand units a year”.
Unfortunately, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, who wouldn’t be expected to deluge on the PM’s parade, did just that, estimating a much more modest 10,000 additional homes a year.
The Ministry, of course, knew just how many councils still had HRAs, as now do we.
Following some rather limited “research” – apparently a phone call to the Ministry – Monday’s Independent revealed “that only 160 of the 326 councils in England with responsibility for housing have HRAs”. Not a bad guess, was it!
The Indy did, though, name names, noting that “some of the most deprived towns and cities with the greatest need for new homes, including Liverpool, Bolton and Wakefield, are among areas that will miss out.”
Which seemed particularly tough on Liverpool, whose mayor only recently announced plans to spend £50 million building initially 500 and eventually 10,000 new homes for the homeless, foster carers, large families, the elderly and people with disability through the council’s new “ethical housing company”, Foundations.
The new company was required because in the mid-2000s Liverpool’s cash-strapped council, like so many others, felt it had little chance of meeting the Government’s Decent Homes Standard without accessing the extra government funding that would come with transferring its remaining 15,000 housing stock to a housing association, Liverpool Mutual Homes. In the required ballot the tenants overwhelmingly agreed.
In Birmingham a comparable situation had played out very differently. In 2002, Birmingham’s 80,000 tenants, offered a similar but less appealing deal, had followed those in Dudley in decisively rejecting their Labour councils’ stock transfer proposals.
It was particularly embarrassing for Birmingham’s leaders, following a costly promotional campaign; also for New Labour’s whole housing privatisation programme, for which Birmingham was an intended vanguard.
The two councils’ options, already limited, were now constrained by knowledge of their tenants’ views.
Sandwell, whose tenants had also rejected a stock transfer option, created an Arm’s Length Management Organisation (ALMO), whereby the council remained owners of the stock, but with all management transferred to Sandwell Homes.
Wolverhampton concluded a similar relationship with Wolverhampton Homes.
Both these councils naturally retain their HRAs, as do Birmingham and Dudley, who for differing reasons eventually chose the Local Authority Stock Retention option.
In the Metropolitan West Midlands that leaves Coventry and Walsall councils.
Their roughly 50,000 tenants have for some years now been in homes both owned and managed by housing associations, so they certainly won’t be celebrating anything the PM chooses to do to HRA borrowing caps. Chris Game is a lecturer at the Institute of Local Government Studies, at the University of
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