Housing associations must raise their game

Many housing associations and private house-builders already have apprenticeship and local recruitment schemes in place – but these steps will for the first time ensure that all organisations bidding for Government cash do so.

Mr Healey also called on housing associations to do more to fulfil their social role during the downturn, and help more of those struggling to pay their mortgages to stay in their homes by going through the Mortgage Rescue Scheme.

Between April and June this year, 605 households applied to sell and rent back their homes through the Government’s Mortgage Rescue Scheme – but only 46 received an offer from a registered social landlord.

Having this month put in place a new specialist team to help fast-track applications, the minister confirmed that the Homes and Communities Agency has been given greater leeway to offer higher grants to housing associations looking to buy and rent back properties to struggling homeowners – these grants will be raised from 55 to 65 per cent of the property purchase price with immediate effect.

Mr Healey also highlighted the comprehensive range of Government support for the housing industry – including the largest council house-building programme for nearly two decades, and the £1bn Kickstart programme to help get stalled private housing developments back on track.

These measures have ensured that, despite the tough economic climate, work began on nearly 30,000 homes between April and June this year – 63 per cent more than the first quarter of 2009.

Despite the downturn, the Minister said that this year 55,000 affordable homes would still be built, with a further 56,000 the following year.

This is despite the unprecedented global recession, and he called on the house-building industry, housing associations and councils to work with Government to help deliver the new homes the country needs and unlock future job opportunities.

John Healey said:

"We’re using the power of Government action and public investment to build homes, create jobs and support the construction industry at a time when others can’t. Despite the recession, our action means an extra 55,000 new affordable homes will still be built this year alone.

"I want to make sure we get the most for every taxpayer’s pound. That’s why for the first time, housing associations bidding for Government cash will now be required to offer apprenticeships and local jobs, which could create 1,500 valuable opportunities to give young people the skills and start to their career they deserve. We’re using the power of Government procurement to create local jobs and a stronger skills base for the future.

"But I also want to see housing associations raise their game, and do more to ensure families facing the immediate threat of repossession get the help they need to stay in their homes through the Mortgage Rescue Scheme. That’s why I am ready to raise the grant rates to help them do this – but in return I want to see more struggling homeowners getting the help they need through the scheme quicker."

Have your say on this story using the comment section below.