Paul Doe, Chief Executive of the Shepherds Bush Housing Group, a member of the National Housing Federation outlines how the future might look for the British housing associations outside the EU.
On 23rd June British voters faced one of the most important decisions in the history of the country. The Referendum on UK membership of the European Union has created a huge furore of public debate. We can all take a view on the quality of that debate and some of the opinions expressed, but it is clear that the decision will have implications for us all.
We have received a welcome briefing from the National Housing Federation on the issues we will face should we leave the EU. In particular, the questions are:
- Will Boards have more freedoms over our businesses?
- Will we be able to build more homes and attract investment?
- What will happen to housing demand.
The OJEU public procurement procedure often presents challenges for many housing associations. The NHF make it clear that public procurement remains an integral part of EU competition law and tends to be the quid pro quo for trading with Europe. Without OJEU we will have to establish our own public procurement regime and it is likely that any successor would need to be modelled on the OJEU procedure.
There is great concern about the effect of Brexit on building new homes. We are already suffering a construction skills shortage. Brexit may bring a new immigration system but the added burden of evidencing skills in an immigration process may dis-incentivise some migrants coming to join our construction industry. There is also the issue of the cost of materials which are imported from Europe. Free movement of goods will no longer be in place and costs are likely to rise.
With regard to investment, speculation is rife over the actual impact of a Brexit. Clearly housing associations will not be able to access a number of current EU funds but there may be some benefits as state aid rules are no longer applied. However, this is dependent upon our Government choosing to make new funding available.
On housing demand, much wass made by the Brexiters that controls on migration would reduce housing demand. However, we do not know how the UK’s new immigration policy will work and all this is likely to create great uncertainty without any immediate effect on demand.
There is no doubt that Brexit will create huge amounts of uncertainty and change for the whole of the UK, including the housing association sector. We know that changes will always be negotiated within the EU and we will be affected as housing associations. No business welcomes upheaval or uncertainty and for us to continue with our main aims of building new homes, supporting our residents and contributing to our local economies in we need clarity about our future relationship with the EU as soon as possible.