Early thoughts from Tpas on Brexit and social housing

Monday 27th of June 2016

After months of speculation about the referendum we may well be entering months of speculation about what happens next. Here are some early thoughts from Tpas on Brexit and social housing.

Three main topics to consider came to mind: the likely impact on social landlords' ability to do what they do, the effect of the post-referendum changes in political leadership on wider housing and welfare policy, and the priorities to be pursued in negotiating exit from the EU.

Impact on social landlords

The short term impacts will probably be largely financial. Uncertainty about the future terms of trade will make financial bodies and other businesses cautious, so it may be more expensive or harder to borrow money to invest in homes or regeneration, and the offer or agreement of contracts for services may be put on hold. If uncertainty lasts for a while then house prices may fall, which will make it harder for landlords to build new homes and generate surpluses from sales activities. It is more than a little ironic that this could be a problem for landlords whose core mission is to provide homes that people can afford, but there we are.

The longer term impacts depend very much on what terms are negotiated for post-EU trading. There may be effects on the costs of materials to build and improve homes, the ability to get workers for big development and investment projects, and the regulations applied to companies providing goods and services. Much of the immediate post-referendum commentary assumes regulations will be similar, costs will go up and availability of skilled labour will go down. The housing sector has made good use of EU grants that support work on regeneration, social inclusion and energy efficiency - access to these will certainly be lost.

Political change

As I'm writing this the government has gone strangely silent, the Tory party is gearing up to find its new leader, the parliamentary Labour Party is in disarray and the SNP is considering whether it can get Scotland out of the UK after all.  The tone and priorities of the main English parties could be unclear for some months, but presumably as it shakes out they will be better able to articulate how they want the country to be and how they would get to it. What this means for housing and welfare policy is hard to predict. Political leaning will have an influence, but pragmatic concerns will too. For example ability to deliver new homes through the framework created by the Housing and Planning Act looks uncertain if the economy weakens, so policy change might be required to enable manifesto commitments to improve housing supply to be honoured.

Priorities to be pursued

 It's worth remembering that polling shows social tenants were more likely to vote to leave the EU than remain. This perhaps gives their interests more visibility in the coming months than they have had for some time.
More widely, concerns that the economy, in particular employment markets, and the housing market are not working in the interests of British people strongly influenced voting decisions, alongside more philosophical views on political sovereignty.
 It is clear that there is now a chance for the concerns of people who have felt marginalised and excluded by economic trends and political priorities to be taken on board by government and opposition and addressed by the politicians who define what the country will look like as it leaves the EU.

 At Tpas we very much hope that the voices of people who are involved with shaping and trying to improve their communities, whether in a personal or professional capacity, will be part of the conversations that will necessarily redefine how our country works, and that the outcomes will work in their interests.