RIBA criticises Theresa May’s housing association announcement

RIBA president Ben Derbyshire has branded the prime minister’s £2bn pledge for housing associations “a drop in the ocean”.

And he called on the government to “recognise the central role of architects in delivering homes and places that people are proud of”.

Theresa May

Source: Shutterstock

Theresa May

His remarks came after Theresa May announced £2bn of new long-term funding for affordable housing and said in return housing associations must develop schemes themselves.

Speaking at the National Housing Federation Summit in central London the prime minister announced new long-term funding for housing associations, which allow them to build social and affordable housing.

May (pictured) said: “New longer-term partnerships will be opened up to the most ambitious housing associations through a ground-breaking £2bn initiative. Under the scheme, associations will be able to apply for funding stretching as far ahead as 2028/29 – the first time any government has offered housing associations such long-term certainty.

“Doing so will give you the stability you need to get tens of thousands of affordable and social homes built where they are needed most, and make it easier for you to leverage the private finance you need to build many more.”

May added that housing associations have a particularly important role to play in tackling the housing crisis.

She said: “I want to see housing associations taking on and leading major developments themselves. Because creating the kind of large-scale, high-quality developments this country needs requires a special kind of leadership – leadership you are uniquely well-placed to provide.

“Given the right tools and the right support, you can act as the strategic, long-term investors in the kind of high-quality places this country needs. To put it simply, you get homes built. And I want to work with you to transform the way we do so.”

But Derbyshire said: “The news that the government will provide £2bn of new funding for housing associations is welcome, but is a mere drop in the ocean when it comes to actually solving the crisis of affordable housing in this country.

Ben Derbyshire

Source: Tom Campbell

Ben Derbyshire

“The RIBA has been calling on the government to lift the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap for local authorities to enable them to build more of the social housing we need.

“It is also vital to ensure that the homes we build are well designed and made to last.

“Social housing in the past was a source of pride for tenants. If we are to achieve this in the future and remove the stigma that is now too often experienced by social housing tenants, the government must recognise the central role of architects in delivering homes and places that people are proud of.”

Félicie Krikler, director of housing specialist Assael Architecture, said: “Theresa May’s speech and announcement today at the National Housing Federation is a necessary addition to previous government’s initiatives towards social housing.

“It now appears to be finally accepted among the top tiers of government that fixing the UK’s housing market requires a substantial increase in the amount – and quality – of social housing units available across the country.

“Yet, instilling ‘pride’ in living in social housing and challenging the existing stigma, as May puts it, means rethinking how to design and crucially manage social housing. Pride in one’s home is made possible through quality and contextual placemaking, where community-bonds are encouraged among residents and with the wider community. But past failings show that no matter how good design is, it falls by the wayside when managed poorly.

“The additional funding to Housing Associations and Local Authorities pledged by the PM today must be used to pioneer good, long-lasting and inclusive design, as well as allocating a significant chunk of funds to ensure that the management of social housing serves the general public. If not, we are destined to let history repeat itself.”

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) welcomed the extra funding, but said the country cannot afford to wait until 2022.

Meanwhile the NHBC published a report this week claiming the link between inadequate housing and poor physical and mental health costs the NHS £2.5bn a year.