The Homes and Communities Agency’s consultation on the Value for Money Standard is a welcome opportunity to review the role of housing associations in advance of the forthcoming Housing Green Paper. All the indications are that we now have a Government that appreciates the huge contribution that housing associations can and do make not only to the national housebuilding programme but also to sustaining local communities and reducing the burden on public services.
The Homes for Cathy group represents more than 50 housing associations who are gravely concerned about the numbers of homeless people in Britain today and are campaigning for more resources to be devoted to reducing these numbers and supporting those who are homeless. Fifty years on from the first showing of Ken Loach’s drama documentary, Cathy Come Home, and despite housing associations building hundreds of thousands of homes in that period, the need for housing associations to prioritise ways of housing and supporting homeless people is more acute than ever.
The Homes for Cathy group welcomes the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) consultation on the Value for Money (VFM) standard. The Homes for Cathy group has been concerned that the current VFM standard does not place sufficient emphasis on the duty of housing associations to house and support homeless people who do not have the resources to resolve their housing problems through the private rented sector or through home ownership options including shared ownership.
Because social value and social return on investment are more difficult to measure, it is tempting for Value for Money to be defined in terms of purely financial metrics where no account is taken of the level of services provided or of the type and tenure of the housing delivered.
But increasing homelessness places huge strains on our public services both local and national. Shelter has recently estimated that 307,000 people are rough sleeping or in temporary accommodation in Britain - a rise of 13,000 in one year.
The HCA is tasked with ensuring that ‘value for money is obtained from public investment in social housing’. In the Homes for Cathy group’s response to the HCA consultation on the VFM standard, we argue that this duty should include measuring the contribution of housing associations to reducing the burden on local government, the NHS, the police and other public services and, in particular, to alleviating the plight of homeless people.
So let us work with the regulator to develop standards that measure the social impact of the work of housing associations and the social return on the funding we receive directly or indirectly from Government. And in doing so we can demonstrate the wider value that can be achieved by increased investment in housing and services for homeless people.