Aster signs up to new Homes England initiative

Aster signs up to new Homes England initiative

Aster Group has become one of the first housing associations to partner with Homes England on a new initiative designed to increase capacity and speed up the delivery of affordable housing.

The group, which owns and manages properties across the south of England, has secured £13.1m of funding through Homes England’s Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes Programme (SOAHP) with specific schemes eligible for ‘grant payment flexibility’. This will be used to develop more than 400 homes across 11 schemes between now and 2022, with the first development underway in Tadley, Hampshire.

Grant payment flexibility allows Aster to access 95% of available Homes England grant funding – which is drawn down and used immediately – for a scheme when it acquires the land, with the final 5% paid on completion. This compares with the usual process in which housing associations receive 40% at the acquisition stage, 35% when they start the development and 25% on completion.

The flexibility means Aster can scope the costs earlier, on a scheme by scheme basis, and receive funding sooner, increasing capacity and ultimately the number of social rented homes delivered.

Aster purchased the land for the 11 schemes before approaching Homes England for funding.

Amanda Williams, Aster’s group development director, said: “We’re doing all we can to boost the number of affordable homes we build, and that commitment includes working with organisations such as Homes England to trial new and innovative ways of increasing capacity and delivery.

“With grant payment flexibility we have greater visibility and control of the timing of the grant funding we receive, meaning we can more efficiently manage our schemes across the south of England. Going to Homes England having already purchased the land we need gives them certainty that we will deliver the homes it has provided funding for.

“Between now and 2022, the initiative will allow us to provide hundreds of families with a new, high-quality home in line with our vision of helping to ensure everyone has a home.”

Last month the group appointed former housing ombudsman Mike Biles as non-executive chairman.

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