Industry Intel

May: Property industry news headline round-up

Tina Ledger

Graphic Designer

Jul 26, 2022

May has brought shifts in government policy and huge allocations of funding to local councils. The government announced a £203m fund to help tackle rough sleeping.

£8.3m in funding has been allocated to fifty-seven more local councils to improve local infrastructure, education, and transport, with another £12m allocated to nine local authorities to trial a new self-isolation model. This additional funding should promote greater security and resident health in highly infected areas.

The Regulation of Standard Housing is now monitoring Croydon council following a safety breach, and social housing provider Stonewater has made a permanent shift to a hybrid working model.

The highly anticipated PA Housing and Accent merger, which proposed a 44,000 home landlord, has been canceled. This news comes just weeks after Southern Housing Group and Sanctuary abandoned their merger plans.

Stonewater Announces Permanent Shift to Hybrid Working Model

Leading social housing provider Stonewater has announced a permanent shift to a hybrid working model for their employees.

The onset of the pandemic last year caused mass upheaval in the workspace, forcing many who don’t usually work at home to adjust to a new working style. Many companies have attempted a hybrid working model, which refers to both remote and in-office work, since the beginning of the pandemic. Working at home can be challenging, with some of the main concerns being space and concentration.

Stonewater is known for innovation and progression and continues to live up to that reputation by offering interest-free loans to colleagues to help create a designated workspace in their home.

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Government Announces £203m Funding to Tackle Rough Sleeping

The government has announced that it will divide £203m amongst local councils to tackle rough sleeping. According to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, the fund will support 14,500 beds and 2,700 support staff. The government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative has already reduced rough sleeping by almost a third in areas that have partaken in the initiative. “The results are clear and are a huge credit to all involved”, says Jenrick.

The £203m fund will support shelters and specialist mental health and addiction services. The funding is 81% higher than last year’s Rough Sleeping Initiative funding of £112m. Chief Executive of homeless charity Crisis, Jon Sparkes, welcomes the funding. Still, he claims that it is not enough to fully tackle the problem, referring to the needs of homeless people with multiple support requirements needing specialist help.

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Croydon Council Breaches Housing Standards, Appoints New Temporary Director of Housing

Council flats in Regina Road, Croydon, have been deemed ‘uninhabitable and unsafe’ by the Regulator of Social Housing, according to an independent investigation released on 7th May.

According to the investigation, Croydon Council’s South Norwood flats breach standard housing regulations. The investigations followed the exposure of the block’s living conditions to the media and repeated requests and complaints to Croydon Council by residents and locals for up to four years. The council’s failure to improve the living conditions in the blocks despite repeated requests ‘put the health and safety of tenants at risk’.

In response to the investigations, Croydon Council has appointed a new temporary director of housing, Dr Alison Knight. The council is now under the watchful eye of the Regulator of Social Housing as they attempt to remedy the breach.

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Government Begins Trial for New Model Design Codes with £50,000 Funding to Fourteen Local Authorities

The government has allocated £50,000 to fourteen local authorities to help them implement the New Model Design Code (NMDC). The selected councils will take part in a six-month test period to implement the new code in their area.

The NDMC focuses on planning, designing, and building housing developments that are beautiful and fit with local popular design and themes. Instead of locals being imposed upon by developers and putting up with developments that do not fit the local character, developers must accept proposals from local planners.

The NMDC will “enable local people to set the rules for what developments in their area should look like, ensuring that they reflect and enhance their surroundings and preserve our local character and identity”, says housing minister Christopher Pincher.

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Five More Councils Pledge to Reach Net-Zero Carbon Emissions Early

Five more councils have pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and eventually achieve net-zero. Almost sixty councils have now pledged, leading the way for more to follow suit.

Warwick District Council, London Borough of Lambeth, St Albans City & District Council, Brighton & Hove City Council, and Hammersmith & Fulham Council are the latest councils to pledge early net zero.

Polly Billington of UK100 touts leadership, funding, and power as key factors in achieving net-zero success.

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CIPFA Offers Guidance and Support to Reduce Risk of LATCs

Following several failed commercial ventures in Croydon and Nottingham, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has announced that it will guide councils on governance arrangements for local authority trading companies (LATCs).

LATCs – council-owned bodies free to operate as commercial companies – can provide services to a broader market than council departments. CIPFA’s guidance aims to reduce the risk associated with LATCs and build greater assurance processes.

CIPFA’s guidance is necessary, given that many councils lack the guidance and support to guarantee a low risk for councils that own companies. CIPFA CEO Rob Whitman claims that the guidance will “develop greater trust in public financial management and reduce the financial and reputational risks for councils who own companies.”

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Fifty-seven More High Streets to Receive £803m in Government Funding

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that £803m will be allocated to fifty-seven high streets across the country to improve businesses, schools, and public spaces. The money, taken from the Future High Streets Fund, will “improve transport links, build new homes, and transform underused spaces.”

“As the country gets back on its feet, the Government has renewed its commitment to levelling up and tackling the issues that really matter to people”, says the PM.

The government will provide more funding to other local authorities as part of its levelling up agenda. Plymouth, Ashfield & Mansfield, South Sefton & North Liverpool, and North Durham & City will receive £10m in funding to improve the quality of their teaching to improve education for children. The Opportunity Areas programme will receive £18m in funding to support young people in education from disadvantaged areas.

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Devolution White Paper to Be Replaced by Levelling Up Proposals

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has appointed Neil O’ Brien, former special adviser to chancellor George Osborne and former Prime Minister Theresa May, to oversee the Levelling Up programme.

The Levelling Up programme aims to reduce regional inequalities. The £4.8b fund will improve the country’s infrastructure, transport, town centres, high streets, culture, and heritage assets. Mr O’ Brien’s appointment to spearhead the programme follows concerns that it is failing to make a significant enough impact on red wall constituencies.

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Government Allocates £12m Funding to Nine Local Authorities in Self-isolation Support Scheme

The government has allocated £12m to nine local authorities to support those who need to self-isolate but live in overcrowded households. Areas with a high prevalence of infection will receive funding, including Blackpool, Somerset, and Hackney. The funding will also support translation services for those whose first language is not English.

Further initiatives will support highly affected areas and those most impacted by the pandemic, such as ‘buddying’ services for those whose mental health has been affected and increased social care support for vulnerable adults.

The nine local authorities will pilot the funding initiative in a “joint national effort to stop the spread and keep case rates as low as possible as we look towards a return to our normal way of life”, says Cllr James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association.

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PA Housing and Accent Merger Cancelled

PA Housing and Accent Group had planned to form a 44,000-home landlord following discussions released in March but have since abandoned the plan. The reason for deciding against the merger has not been revealed.

Another potential merger between Southern Housing Group and Sanctuary was cancelled just weeks before PA Housing and Accent’s announcement.

Despite the merger’s cancellation, Accent still plans to build 1,500 homes by 2024, and PA Housing intends to build 6,000 homes by 2030. “Our business is very resilient, and we remain determined to lead the sector with our approach and deliver even more for the communities we serve”, says Dilip Kavi, chief executive of PA Housing.

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New Principal Contractor Appointed to Grenfell Tower

Deconstruct UK Ltd (DUK), part of a wider group of companies called De-Group, has been appointed to take over and continue essential maintenance and safety works at Grenfell Tower. DUK boasts previous experience and understanding about Grenfell Tower, having been subcontractors under the previous principal contractor, Wates Property Services.

DUK will maintain safety and security in the building with twenty-four-hour monitoring, carrying out planned safety work, installing new support structures, and overseeing ongoing maintenance work. DUK’s role in Grenfell Tower will be to maintain the building until further notice. They have not been contracted to bring down the tower.

Besides safety and security maintenance, DUK will also offer thirty employment opportunities to people living close to the tower.

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Graphic Designer

Tina Ledger

Being such a people person makes Tina exceptionally good at her job. She not only can relate to most people in one way or another, but she also genuinely enjoys hearing about other people’s experiences. Couple that with her resilience and ability to flourish under pressure, and you’ve got yourself a cracking recruiter.

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