Increasing government demands on local authorities – building safety works, net-zero targets and affordable housing provision – are putting council housing managers and Housing Revenue Accounts under unbearable pressure, findings from a National Federation of ALMOs survey reveal.

While the recent Levelling Up White Paper recognises that more genuinely affordable social housing is part of the solution to regional inequalities, it doesn’t suggest where the funding might come from to achieve this.

Without more help from the centre, social housing providers, including councils and their ALMOs, will “struggle to deliver the new homes for rent that the market desperately needs”, the report says.

Data from the annual members’ survey conducted by the National Federation of ALMOs – managers of over 300,000 council-owned social housing homes – show there is “no slack left” in Housing Revenue Accounts or wider local authority resources.

Councils and their housing management organisations are struggling to absorb the costs of unplanned building safety remediation and the government’s zero carbon agenda.

The problem is “being made worse” by short-term funding pots, particularly for retrofit work. Meanwhile the social housing sector still doesn’t have a long-term rent settlement and this makes it difficult for councils to make long-term plans for effective use of the HRA.

“Two years of pandemic and increasing economic turmoil are taking their toll everywhere, and our members are seeing the first inklings of the long-term repercussions of that for the social housing sector,” said survey author Lisa Birchall, the NFA’s policy and research officer.

“Delayed new-build programmes and skills shortages are adding further pressure to hard-pressed local authorities. Given that the current settlement only takes us up to 2025, the NFA and its members believe the time is right for a thorough review of the funding streams for council housing.”

In the light of the survey findings, the NFA has a set of four key asks for the government:

  • A new longer term rent policy in place for all social landlords.
  • An increase in the Affordable Housing Programme with more grant available for social rented homes.
  • An additional pot of funding to support local regeneration schemes where housing at the end of its useful life can be demolished and rebuilt to new net-zero standards without any demand for additional units.
  • A long-term retrofit programme which operates in a similar way to the Affordable Homes Programme, enabling strategic partnerships and continuous market engagement, which would help longer term planning and delivery by social landlords.