Government funding commitments ‘critical’ for safety and sustainability | News

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Government funding commitments ‘critical’ for safety and sustainability

The Chief Economist at RICS has said there needs to be government investment to ensure the money is there to tackle safety and sustainability in housing.

Speaking at HQN’s Finance Network conference, Simon Rubinsohn said: “Sustainability a big challenge. As with fire safety, government commitments on funding are going to be absolutely critical.

“There is concern that some of the financial commitments from government may not actually make it through in a post pandemic environment. There are going to be some big choices when government looks at the balance sheets and decides what to do.”

Speaking more about fire safety, in particular EWS1 forms which RICS created, Rubinsohn said it is “such a big issue for the market”.

He added: “It is critical to remember that this form is not really about safety but mortgage valuations.

“MHCLG muddied the waters on these forms. They opened this up to be on all buildings and there wasn’t the capacity and ability to provide the clarity on all the buildings that needed it.”

He said RICS are currently working with government on the EWS1 form and there will soon be some “clarity on the scope” of the form.

He added: “There is going to be a training programme announced to build the capacity of professionals to meet demand.

“This capacity won’t stop the problems overnight, takes time to reach capacity.”

The Chief Economist also gave some thoughts on the Planning White Paper, namely that First Homes and Shared Ownership changes provide “significant challenges” and that there should be a ring-fencing of affordable housing funding to ensure none is lost.

Rubinsohn said that there is still a long way to go in terms of a national recovery, despite some boost between the two national lockdowns.

He showed how the private market was “flying at the moment” and explained how affordability is getting worse as government helps to prop up the higher house prices and doesn’t let them fall.

He added: “Price expectations still remain in positive territory. When the various support measures, stamp duty and Help to Buy begin to unwind, prices will remain pretty resilient, but activity will take the hit and fall away.”

Also speaking at the event was Adrian Jolliffe, Managing Director, 2tix Consulting.

Jolliffe told delegates about the importance of ESG reporting and how “social housing is a natural fit”.

He said many “socially conscious bond investors” are looking at this, with some high profile lenders stopping or not signing contracts with those who do not meet those standards.

Hamid Ghafoor, Partner at BDO gave delegates an interesting insight from an auditors point of view.

He said his organisation were expecting “a significant increase in arrears but that hasn’t happened,” adding that “we have found that for most providers we have worked with have actually had more cash than they did before the pandemic.”

He was also concerned at the number of auditors pulling out of the social housing sector: “I have never seen so few participants in tenders in this sector recently. We have had people asking us to bid because no one else is. A lot of auditing firms have pulled out of the sector.”

 

HQN’s Finance conference was put together by the Housing Finance Network. To find out more about the Network, and how your organisation can join up, click here.