Could this be a new era for Almos?

Is the dominance of RSLs in the delivery of new social housing being eroded?

The sector’s new funding regime for new homes could mean that councils once again become favoured as developers, with smaller RSLs in particular being squeezed out over time. Current events may present an opportunity for local authorities – and particularly ALMOs – to once again be involved in large-scale development of social housing.

The Homes and Communities Agency is now the single, national agency charged with delivering regeneration and growth. With an investment budget of over £5bn per year, it has huge scale and resources, although these figures were set before the current economic crisis.

The HCA set an ambitious target for delivering affordable homes. How realistic is that now? How much money will be there and how will it spend the money if developers are not developing and shared ownership is not selling? The HCA has made clear its desire to establish partnerships in local areas that deliver new supply and support existing communities.

This is an opportunity for ALMOs who know their local authorities very well and operate in only one area. They are well positioned to be at the forefront of the local strategic partnerships approach that the HCA is looking for. Up to now, ALMOs have had very limited development activity, but is this a blank sheet of paper that may allow them to be at the forefront of development?

ALMOs have argued previously that the playing field was not level because of the existing Social Housing Grant regime and the problems that they face in raising private finance. Is the playing field now tilting the other way? ALMOs, via their local authorities, have the land and the potential for very strong local partnerships across their single local authority area. Could this be attractive to the HCA? The National Federation of ALMOs will certainly be lobbying the HCA to be preferred to deliver their priorities. And ALMOs get much better inspection results overall, which could help them.

Who could say no to a three star ALMO with land to build on and a track record of development? Some ALMOs are already starting to develop, some already get Social Housing Grant, so the HCA could be just what they are waiting for.


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