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Housing associations feel the heat over delivery levels

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An investigation has questioned housing associations’ ability to get value for money in providing new affordable homes and indicated they will be increasingly blamed by ministers for low delivery levels

As the government gears up for battle on its 2015 election manifesto pledge to make associations sell tenants their homes at a discount, an investigation by Channel 4 News indicated that social landlords’ operating costs and senior salary levels were coming under fire.

It said official figures revealed that housing associations had only delivered an average of 26,000 homes a year between 2000 and 2014 - roughly half the level of affordable housing required, while the bulk of their revenue was spent in operating costs, rather than in providing new stock.

The programme said associations spent an average of 74p in the pound of their income on operating costs, while for some the figure was 90p. It also suggested that associations spent over the odds on new-build homes, contrasting a £150,000 per house cost cited by associations with a £90,000 cost indicated by the construction industry.

Conservative MP Bob Blackman told the investigation that social landlords had to bear some responsibility for the nation’s housing shortfall.

‘The principle problem of housing in this country is the lack of supply,’ he said.

‘Everyone says, “oh, the government has to do more”. Well, the housing association sector are the principal provider of affordable social housing. But they are just coasting.’

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, the umbrella body for housing associations, said it was hard to categorise and compare members’ performance.

‘These are by miles the most effective social enterprises in the country,’ he said.

‘The fact that they don’t fit neatly into boxes that you can then stack on top of each other and they say that they all look the same, may make life a little more difficult.’

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