**Update** Government announces next stage of Community Housing Fund
The community-led housing sector received welcome news this July, the fund provides grant funding for community groups in early stage of development.
There is a total of £163million available and there is no cap on what funding a group may receive. However, the Fund will only be open to applications until the funding is fully committed, or until 31 December 2019, whichever is earlier. Interested groups therefore need to start thinking about applying as soon as possible, as this does not leave very long for the money to be spent.
What will the Community Housing Fund pay for?
The recent announcement relates to Phase One of the funding programme only. Phase One provides revenue funding, which is aimed at getting groups up and running with their community-led housing scheme.
The money can be spent on items such as capacity building, incorporation costs, feasibility studies, planning applications, project management, design work and business planning.
Funding provided under this Phase One cannot be used to acquire land or properties. Later phases will provide capital funding for site acquisition and build costs.
Local authorities can also apply for revenue funding under Phase One to spend on 'associated infrastructure costs' for a development, such as access roads, roundabouts or services needed to open up a site. They can also apply for funding to support community-led housing groups in their area, for example by employing staff.
Who is the Community Housing Fund aimed at?
The Community Housing Fund is open to community-led housing groups, including community land trusts, cohousing groups and housing cooperatives.
Groups must be, or intending to become, a body corporate in order to bid. This would include charities, companies limited by guarantee, community benefit societies, cooperative societies and community interest companies.
As mentioned above, it is also open to local authorities.
Does a group need to be a registered provider of social housing to be eligible for the grant?
Groups do not need to be registered providers of social housing to be eligible for Phase One grant funding.
However, they will need to become registered to qualify for a capital grant under Phase Two (or under most other Homes England funding programmes), where they are planning to develop homes for below-market rent, of which they will be the landlord.
This does not mean that community-led housing groups will automatically need to become registered providers. There are other options available, for example, partnering with existing housing associations where that housing association acts as the landlord of rental properties instead of the CLT.
Registration will also not be required if a community-led housing group is developing properties for other forms of home ownership, such as shared ownership or shared equity. Groups should be aware that Homes England may ask about this during the grant application process, even for Phase 1 funding.
How do I apply?
The application process is open now. Proposals must demonstrate that:
- meaningful community engagement and consent will occur throughout the development process;
- the local community group will own, manage or steward the home in a manner of their choosing; and
- benefits to a local area or specified community will be clearly defined and legally protected in perpetuity.
Groups will need to ensure that they are properly constituted and managed, in order to fulfil these requirements.
It should take between six and eight weeks from submission of a bid to receive a decision.
Groups are strongly recommended to read the Community Housing Fund prospectus in detail before submitting an application. This is available here.
It should be noted that the Community Housing Fund is only applicable to community-led housing groups in England. Groups in Wales may be able to access the Welsh Government's Housing and Regeneration Funding.
Groups in London should also note that it will be the Greater London Authority, rather than Homes England, which handles the funding applications. The London Hub will be able to advise further.
The announcement of the Fund is very positive news for the sector, as it finally gives community-led housing groups the financial support they need to get going. However, with less than two years for the funding to be spent, groups are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.
The National Community Land Trust Network has issued a helpful briefing note on the Community Housing Fund. This is available on their website here.
If you have any questions about the Community Housing Fund, please contact any member of our community-led housing team, here.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Laura Moss or any other member of the Charities team on 0113 244 6100.
You can also keep up to date by following Wrigleys Community-Led Housing team on Twitter
The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors