Author: Tom Chance, Director of National CLT Network
Late last year we submitted a Freedom of Information request to Homes England. This revealed that there are over 3,500 community led homes in the Community Housing Fund pipeline. This is an exciting prospect considering it’s been less than 9 months since the fund was opened. But many could be scuppered unless the Community Housing Fund is extended.
The Community Housing Fund, outside of London, is due to close for bids in December 2019. Most of the groups bringing forward those 3,500 homes will need access to capital funding for their affordable homes into next year and beyond, if they’re to get those homes completed.
The number might seem small in the scheme of things. But these are homes being developed to meet very particular needs communities. They matter, and the people behind them will be devastated if the Government pulls the rug from under them.
Groups building standard types of affordable housing like affordable rent and shared ownership will still be able to bid for the mainstream affordable homes funding. But innovative approaches won’t qualify, and new groups will lose access to unique revenue funding to develop their plans. Frankly, ending the Fund so quickly will be a farce!
The National CLT Network lobbied for and secured this fund in 2016. After a rocky start we helped the Government design the current programme, and persuade them to aim not just to build some homes but to grow the community led housing movement. We are steadily building the expertise and capacity in communities and the wider housing industry for this to be much more mainstream.
It was always envisioned that this would be a five-year fund. That would give groups the time to develop their projects, and the sector time to grow. But delays have meant this part of the Fund will only be open to bids for 18 months. A turn around time like this would be tricky for seasoned housing developers never mind CLTs, which are mostly powered by volunteers. This isn’t taking into consideration the quite lengthy process to register as a social housing provider, which some CLTs may decide to go through.
Last week, London’s Community Housing Fund was announced. The GLA operates separate systems to Homes England, and they’ve done a fantastic job adapting the fund to the capital. The news was all the sweeter because in London the Fund stays open until 2023. Great news for Londoners, but not very fair for groups in the rest of England!
I know there are groups across England that have made incredible progress in getting the housing their communities need. I really don’t want to see your good work dashed.
We know there is strong support for the Community Housing Fund from the Housing Minister, officials and many MPs. This is in no small measure thanks to the fantastic lobbying you’ve done, getting our MPs to write on your behalf to the Minister.
But time is running out. We need an answer on its extension. The Treasury is sitting on this one, with no clear process for a decision in the near future. Please help us get an answer. Follow this link for tips on writing to your MP - we want them to now lobby the Treasury. The more CLTs that engage their MPs, and let us know you’re doing it, the more likely we are to get this fund extended.