The fifth annual Savills Housing Sector Survey found that housing providers have made significant progress in building safety works as they have strongly prioritised this and customer care in the past 12 months.
The survey was launched at the Housing 2021 event in Manchester, and also found an 85% increase in stock investment as a top priority among the 138 housing provider respondents. This is up from a 29% increase in 2020.
In addition, respondents – which included senior leaders at housing associations and local authorities across the UK – said tenant support and community engagement are the leading priorities in 2021.
On building safety, the survey found that 82% of respondents had commenced work on 75- 90% of their homes where needed.
This reflects a sustained focus in the past three years of the survey, since the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
The survey also explored progress towards the government’s net zero-carbon target of 2050. It found that 61% of respondents plan to hit net zero-carbon for their homes between 2031-2050.
Although a quarter of respondents have yet to finalise plans and a third are still to include net zero-carbon costs in their business plans.
Half of respondents said finance is the biggest constraint to hitting net zero-carbon. Housing providers expect the additional funds to come from grant funding (88%), debt finance 52% or green finance 39%.
Helen Collins, director at Savills Affordable Housing Consultancy, (pictured) said: “The five years we have been running the Savills Housing Sector Survey have documented an incredible degree of change in the social housing sector.
“When we launched the survey in 2017 the headlines were dominated by rent cuts, the Grenfell Tower tragedy, development cross-subsidy and Brexit. For-profit providers had yet to emerge in a meaningful way, and decarbonisation of the economy was not government policy.
“Now, in response to new building safety legislation, the COVID-19 pandemic, net zero carbon by 2050 and the Social Housing White Paper, there is an increased focus on investing in existing homes and helping build more resilient communities, alongside development.”
The survey found that development capacity and desire among respondents remains strong despite safety and energy cost pressures, and the recent trend of increased appetite to work with for-profit housing providers is continuing.
In particular housing association respondents said they were keen to explore development joint ventures (39%) and stock management (48%) with for-profits.
Helen continued: “The survey found 55% of respondents said they plan to undertake more land led development in future.
“This is partly in response to the impact of First Homes reducing the availability of rented and shared ownership homes available through the Section 106 process, and also as a reflection of the increased desire for greater control over the quality of homes being built.
“The increase in average grant rates for the 2021-26 Affordable Housing Programme should support more land-led development, and we expect this to be a key feature of the next five years.”
On building safety, Helen added: “Although there remains much work to be done on building safety, it is encouraging to see that two-thirds of respondents have commenced work on at least 90% of homes that need it.
“On the journey to net zero-carbon by 2050, the survey – and our work with landlords on energy studies (800,000 homes) – suggests most landlords are planning to deliver net zerocarbon works from 2031-2050.
“This will allow time for learning from pilot studies and also for the supply chain to strengthen. The impact of refinancing and portfolio sales, along with stronger grant rates, leaves capacity for development largely unchanged in the short to medium term.”
Savills Affordable Housing Division is the largest specialist adviser to the affordable housing sector.
Over 100 professionals work with housing associations, local authorities, developers, lenders, investors, trade and professional bodies and central government and government agencies.
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