“Will there be another round of the Community Housing Fund?” we wrote at the start of an article on our website almost exactly a year ago. We suggested that Community Land Trusts might want to write to their MP to seek their support for the Community Housing Fund and ask them to write to the Minister to seek its renewal. Many of you did, often pointing to how the fund either helped your own project or could be used by others to help a project similar to your own. Some of you had some very positive responses from your MP and assurances that they would speak to the relevant Minister. Our article last spring stated:
“The Community Housing Fund has been a great boost to schemes up and down the country, but it has had something of a chequered history, and, at the time of writing, it has an uncertain future.”
Sadly, that’s still an accurate statement today. The very schemes that the Government would like the planning system to support or encourage won’t be able to come forward without some funding to help fledgling groups through the feasibility stage and to help ‘de-risk’ difficult sites. In a letter at the tail end of 2021 from Middlemarch to all MPs in Devon, Dorset and Somerset, we said:
“At the early stages any newly formed group will find it difficult to meet the preliminary costs of securing a site and undertaking all the necessary assessments in order to seek planning permission. A Community Led group may have the enthusiasm and willingness to put in volunteer time ‘at risk’ but, unlike a Housing Association or a volume builder, it won’t have the reserves or other financial capacity to underwrite that commitment.”
Unfortunately, since that last article a year ago, there has been the greatest level of churn in Government in living memory – including Michael Gove being appointed, sacked and then re-appointed to his current role in the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Last month the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, had another reshuffle and we now have another new housing minister, Rachel Maclean, the MP for Redditch.
So, we feel the time is right to go back to our MPs. If you’ve written to yours and you had a positive response, then perhaps a short letter or email to remind them of their stated support and asking them to contact the new Housing Minister? If you previously didn’t have a positive response when you contacted your MP, why not try again?
There has been some good news since last year: the Government has recently demonstrated renewed support for community led housing development with some very positive signals in their proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in a consultation that ended at the start of this month.
When writing to your MP, by all means endorse the support the Government is showing through the proposed changes to the NPPF but point out that groups need practical support too. They need a new CHF.