Yesterday in Parliament, I asked the Housing Minister to secure the continuity of the much supported and needed Community Housing Fund.
I am a champion of community led housing and was delighted that the Government responded so positively to my campaign and that of others to establish The Community Housing Fund. This was first announced in the 2016 Spring Budget, with a commitment to invest £300 million over five years, with the money coming from the proceeds of extra stamp duty on second home sales.
The money was allocated to Cornwall Council and 147 other local authorities, roughly in proportion to the number of second homes in their area and the lack of affordable homes.
I believe the Fund will transform the community led housing sector and is expected to deliver 10,000 homes by 2021.
However, the Fund ends with the end of the current spending period. With over 3,500 homes now in the pipeline it is essential that the Fund is extended for the next Spending Review period so they can be delivered.
Because of the delay to the Spending Review, there will now be a significant period of delay and uncertainty for local groups. Money must be spent by March 2020, so few will bid from this point on.
The Spending Review won’t conclude until the Autumn Statement at the earliest, and there may be further delay in decision making following that. So groups, including those in Cornwall, face an invidious choice: continue working up a project and hope funding comes through, or wait and potentially see it stall or collapse.
In the Social Housing Green Paper the Government acknowledged that housing associations could deliver more if given greater medium term certainty. I think that this is even more the case for community land trusts and other models of community led housing.
I asked the Minister to consider the potential impact of the ‘start-stop’ provision of the Community Housing Fund on Cornwall Community Land Trust’s otherwise healthy pipeline of community led projects which has been fostered over the last two years since the very welcome announcement of the Fund.
Cornwall Community Land Trust is a well-respected enabler of community led housing and it has estimated that the discontinuance of the CHF could put up to 240 community led homes overseen by CCLT at jeopardy in Cornwall, as well as a further 100 from other projects such as Co Housing.
I am sure we can all agree that we need to deliver more genuinely affordable homes for local people so that our coastal communities and villages, that are so attractive to second home owners, can survive and prosper as sustainable communities for generations to come.
It’s important to me that we build new communities not just new homes. So investing in the infrastructure that’s needed, such as roads, cycle and foot paths, schools, community places and spaces and health services is essential. I am pleased to have helped Cornwall Council and our NHS secure new funding to enable this to happen.
First published in the West Briton 11/04/19