When Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP, delivers his spending review to the House of Commons next week, he’ll undoubtedly feel a great many eyes boring into him. As a nation, we face twin-battles, Covid-19 and the directly related economic implications.
When considered against this challenge, our request that the Chancellor renews the Community Housing Fund is relatively small. This said, giving this vital funding stream a new lease of life would make a big difference.
Launched in 2018, the fund has never been about large sums of money. Compared to most government projects, the £163m set aside to support community-led housing is a small expenditure. What isn’t small is the impact this money has had already and can have in the future.
In the last two years alone, the fund has helped deliver projects in all parts of the country. It has provided support to overcome early hurdles. The fund has even covered some capital costs including land and development. What’s more, it has helped the pipeline grow, so that homes can be delivered in the communities that need them, at prices local people can truly afford.
As it stands, a pipeline of over 10,000 homes exists, with shovel-ready projects in all parts of England.
We know that the focus of the Chancellor’s announcement will be on the present Covid-19 turmoil. That’s only right and proper. However, in renewing the Community Housing Fund, Mr Sunak can invest in the future.
Evidence published in September by Capital Economics found that for every £1 invested in community-led housing, public benefit of £2.70 is returned over the following decade. Those figures may mean more to the Treasury that they do to us, but in effect the findings are simple: community-led housing is great value for money. It helps reduce social security bills. It improves quality of life for residents. It even saves the NHS money by providing warm, dry and safe homes that don’t make people unwell.
Put simply, while Mr Sunak would have to sign a cheque next week, it’s an investment that will return savings for many years to come.
We have made our case, along with colleagues across the country with an interest in community-led housing. We’ve discussed, lobbied and campaigned for this funding to restart. We’ve made the economic case for this fund and why it’s good value for money. Now we must trust and hope that when Mr Sunak approaches the dispatch box, his plan contains something for community-led housing, and something to give hope to the people across the country in need of decent, truly affordable homes.