We are calling for the Community Housing Fund to be extended!
Update: No announcement was made on the extension of the Community Housing Fund in the Spring Budget 2020. With few housing-related announcements in the accompanying Budget speech, it is expected that further decisions will be made through the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), which has now been postponed until Autumn 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
As Richard Bacon MP pointed out in his adjournment debate on the Community Housing Fund on Thursday 12th March, many groups cannot wait until then and homes that are oven-ready are now in jeopardy. What is needed is 'bridging' funding for 2020/21 until we can get a five-year settlement in the CSR.
Leading up to and directly following the Spring Budget, we and our groups lobbied hard on the extension of the CHF. When the Coronavirus pandemic took hold, we decided to ease the pressure off and tone down our lobbying as we have been very aware of the pressures on Government and wanted to be sensitive to that.
However, having since spoken with officials and MPs, we understand that the Minister for Housing is currently considering the budgets for 2020/21 and that some in the Ministry are still working on business as usual projects. Steps for actions you can take have been updated below to reflect this changing landscape.
What you can do to ensure the continuation of the Community Housing Fund:
If you are interested and able to carry out some gentle lobbying, please send your MP a letter via (updated template below) asking for them to send a letter to the Minister for Housing, copying the Secretary of State. This letter asks the Minister that the CHF be extended for 2020/21 in the 'main estimate'. A template for the email you can send to your MP, as well as the template letter from your MP to the Minister to attach, can be found in the downloadable documents at the bottom of this page. Let us know which MPs you have emailed and what they respond!
Promote the campaign and your involvement through your community led housing group's communication channels (social media, website etc).
Background on the Campaign
Together with our members and supporters, we are campaigning for the multi-million-pound Community Housing Fund to be extended in the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), which will likely take place in Autumn 2020.
An independent study of the community led housing sector shows that the fund has helped create a potential pipeline of between 10,000 and 23,000 homes. There are just shy of 860 community groups currently developing projects in all corners of England, but they will struggle to realise their plans if the CHF is not extended beyond March 2020. The Fund for London projects will remain open until 2023.
The study found that the total funding requirement for these homes over five years is estimated to be up to £260.5m, outside London. That includes up to £57m in revenue funding and £172m in capital funding via Homes England, with an additional £8.5m revenue and £8m capital funding for local authorities, and £15m revenue funding for the sector’s market infrastructure programme.
Envisaged as a five-year fund, delays have meant the Homes England part of the Fund was only open to bids for 18 months.
The Government has committed to supporting community housing in its manifesto and should now deliver on this promise.
Background on the Fund
The Community Housing Fund was first announced in the 2016 Spring Budget, with a commitment to invest £60m in the sector. The money was to come from the proceeds of extra stamp duty on second home sales. Officials made clear to us that this was seen as a five-year commitment, totalling a record £300m.
The first year of the fund was officially launched on the 23 December 2016. The Government gave money to 148 local authorities, roughly in proportion to the number of second homes and the affordability crisis in their area. We worked with Government and other sector bodies to provide guidance and support to those local authorities, but their use of the money has been mixed. Members can download a report on the first year of the fund in the 'member briefings' section of the members' area.
We lobbied Ministers and worked with officials from the spring of 2016 to secure a more sensible design for the Fund. Our members wrote to their MPs several times, and over 50 MPs and Peers wrote to the Minister and tabled written and oral questions. The topic was even raised at Prime Minister's Questions.
We proposed that the Fund be designed around four streams of funding:
Revenue funding for groups to pay for professional services and fees to get to planning and on-site;
Capital grant funding to make your scheme viable and to deliver affordable homes;
Investment in a national network of local enabling hubs which provide that vital one to one support to groups, foster a supportive local policy and funding environment and broker delivery partnerships;
Co-investment in the national infrastructure for community-led housing, including, 1) a single website for community-led housing, making it easier for the public to find information on all community-led housing approaches; 2) a training and quality-mark programme for community-led housing advisers, making sure groups receive the best quality advice, no matter their location, and 3) national support for the network of local enablers.
In November 2017, the Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Alok Sharma, attended our national conference, where he announced the next three years of the fund (£180m from 2017-20). He also committed to these four elements of the programme, making clear that this design would scale up the sector's capacity and supply chains.
The Fund outside London came to an end in March 2020. In London, it will continue to March 2023.