Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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'people, not just houses' - Yvette Cooper announces next steps for social housing

'people, not just houses' - Yvette Cooper announces next steps for social housing

COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT News Release (243) issued by The Government News Network on

Councils and landlords should ensure social housing services focus on people, not just the homes they live in, Housing Minister Yvette Cooper said in a speech to the Housing Corporation and Chartered Institute of housing today.

Yvette Cooper announced a package of measures and extra investment aimed at making social housing fairer, more effective and more personal. The plans will re-focus social housing around the needs of tenants such as young families needing to move to larger homes, increase opportunities for elderly people to relocate closer to their families and grandchildren, and help tenants back into work.

The Government's plans include the launch of a major new crackdown on cramped housing aimed at helping those living in the worst overcrowded households. A new national Overcrowding Action Plan sets out proposals for increasing the number of larger homes nationally, with £15m funds over the next three years to help councils do more in the areas most under pressure. The funding will be targeted at 38 of the most overcrowded areas in London, Birmingham, Bradford, Leicester, Liverpool and Manchester.

The proposals include changes giving greater priority to under-occupiers, such as the elderly and middle-aged 'empty nesters' who want to move into smaller homes or nearer their families. Families living in overcrowded social housing and those people on council house waiting lists will also benefit from the proposal as more larger homes become available for them to rent. The Government will also help people to move across local authority boundaries, with additional funding of £3.8m to develop sub-regional choice-based lettings schemes across the country.

Yvette Cooper also set out proposals to develop new options and advice services in 5 pilot areas. These pilots will see people offered a more varied 'menu' of housing options, including shared ownership deals and short-term lets in the private sector. Jobless tenants will be offered joined-up housing services and employment advice.

Over £4 billion will be pumped into existing housing stock over the next three years to help turn around the prospects of people living in poor quality housing, whether in LA owned stock, in ALMO stock or in the private sector.

Yvette Cooper said:

"Social housing has been part of the fabric of the nation for over a hundred years. However, social and affordable housing must now meet the needs of the twenty-first century too.

"70% of households are now home owners, and 90% say they want to be. As a government we want to widen access to home ownership and help more people build up assets. But home ownership won't be sustainable for everyone. And for some it is a real struggle to find an affordable stable home in the private sector.

"Social housing needs to deliver the security and stability as well as the affordability that families need. But affordability and security are not enough. Social housing needs to support opportunity too.

"Social housing should help people get on in life, not hold them back. That means supporting people, not just investing in bricks and mortar. We must do more to help families out of overcrowded homes, but also give people more choice and opportunity in housing too."

The package announced today includes the following measures:

* Tackling overcrowding - a national £15m Action Plan to address unacceptable levels of overcrowding. We will begin tackling severe overcrowding in all London boroughs and five other local authority overcrowding hotspots by. Next year the funding will target those boroughs which house an estimated 60 per cent of all overcrowded households

* A review of the Housing Revenue Account subsidy system which will look at the need to plan for long term management, maintenance and repairs, and the links with rent policy

* Confirmation of the Regional Housing Pot allocations for £10.4 billion Investment over the next three years. The funding includes £8.4 billion which will deliver the Housing Green Paper commitment to provide at least 70,000 affordable homes, including 45,000 social homes, a year by 2010/11.

* Improving existing housing stock: the Regional Pot also includes about £2 billion for improvements and regeneration to the existing stock owned by local authority and private sector. In addition we are funding of up to £2.4 billion for the Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) programme over 2008 to 2011. The funding includes allocations to 26 two and three star ALMOs totalling £1.6 billion and £200m for 6 ALMOs yet to qualify for funding . This continued investment will enable ALMOs to ensure all of their 490,000 homes are brought up to a modern standard. In addition 4 of the Round 6 ALMOs have had programme places confirmed

* Addressing worklessness in social housing - There will be five new pilot projects to pioneer housing options services and bring together advice on housing and employment. We will also consult on a new reasonable preference category, so that existing tenants looking to move to find work can expect to receive higher priority.

* Increasing mobility - a £1.8 million investment in 18 new sub-regional Choice Based Lettings schemes offering people the chance to move across different local authorities. An additional £2 million investment over the next two years will enable all councils to be part of such a scheme by 2010.

* Increasing opportunities for social housing tenants to access homeownership - Social Homebuy will continue and we are encouraging landlords to improve affordability and develop an option where maintenance costs are shared

* Improving private rented housing - an independent review of the private rented sector to look at more and better private sector options

* Improving regulation - an advisory group chaired by Professor Ian Cole of Sheffield University to work on the detail of how the new social housing regulator can be extended to cover local authorities as well as registered social landlords.

* Transforming neighbourhoods and delivering mixed communities - a New Communities Fund will be created to kick start large-scale redevelopment of housing in the most deprived areas to deliver more mixed sustainable communities

The measures aim to address the key challenges facing social housing today, as set out in the Hills review, which found high levels of worklessness, polarisation of estates, high concentrations of deprivation and low levels of tenant satisfaction.

Notes to Editors

Four million households continue to benefit from the security and stability a social home provides.

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