Reflecting on the last week in Parliament
It’s been another hectic week for British politics and here, Nicholas Harris, Chief Executive at Stonewater, reflects on the Queen’s Speech and what the proposed policies from the newly elected government, means for housing providers.
Building more homes
Given the scale of Britain's worsening housing crisis, as reported on by Shelter this week, we must ensure that housing providers work together and with the government to ensure that it fulfils its current pledge of building at least one million more homes by 2024.
Homelessness can happen to anyone and does not discriminate – it affects every age group and demographic in our society. The government has a responsibility to keep housing at the forefront of domestic policy, as investing in housing is an essential part of our country’s infrastructure and should be prioritised alongside other fundamental elements like our schools and health service.
There is no doubt that leading housing providers, like ourselves, will be pivotal in supporting the government to deliver on its target and ensuring that it invests in social housing, in the communities where it is so desperately needed. In addition to this, we hope that the government as part of its actions, will work on reforming the current system for universal credit (UC) or at least easing the impact it will have on our customers to ensure that new homes are affordable.
In light of the elected majority government, which is believed to have given the UK increased political certainty, we are pleased that leading credit rating agency, S&P Global Ratings has reaffirmed Stonewater as having an ‘A+’ rating, with a stable outlook.This change is significant for us, as it positively reflects Stonewater’s strong financial position, with good liquidity access – as required.
Not only will this allow us to continue playing an important role in tackling the housing crisis through increased investment in our existing homes, but it will enable us to work towards our ambitious development programme of building thousands of high-quality, affordable homes.
We’re also proud to have retained the highest ratings possible for both governance (G1) and financial viability (V1) in the Reglator of Social Housing’s latest judgement this week
As a leading social housing provider, with specialist supported accommodation, our colleagues at Stonewater often hear that victims of domestic abuse feel trapped by their housing circumstances and we have been advocating for more to be done at a policy level. We are, therefore, pleased to hear in the Queen’s Speech that the government will amend the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill to include a new legal duty on local authorities to provide safe accommodation for those fleeing abusive relationships.
The reintroduction of this Bill is an important step towards giving organisations, such as Stonewater, a chance to better protect those affected by domestic abuse and ensure they have the support they need.
Further clarity needed
While we are pleased to see that measures to protect tenants and improve building safety were included in the Queen’s Speech yesterday, there is still work to do, both with our newly elected local MPs and central government, to understand how this will take effect. This will also be the case for the announcement of working towards the goal of achieving net zero carbon by 2050.
Similarly, as a number of our customers have been able to realise their ambition of owning their own home through the Midlands Voluntary Right to Buy pilot scheme, we anticipate there will be more pilots being conducted across the country. We look forward to seeing more details about the government plans shortly and remain committed to our vision of giving everyone the opportunity to have a place that they can call home.