Combined Authority reveals minimal role in delivery of affordable housing

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) is optimistic it has learned from its mistakes

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) is optimistic it has learned from its mistakes, and should grants become available, it could yet have a role in the delivery of affordable homes - Credit: CAPCA

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) has revealed that any future role it will play in the delivery of affordable housing will be minimal unless government funding is forthcoming. 

The announcement comes after months of speculation following the withdrawal of more than £45 million of government funding. 

Under former mayor James Palmer, the ‘original’ affordable housing programme that ended on March 31 2021 had 37 schemes all with allocated funding. 

773 housing units were started, but only 451 were finished. 

Mayor Dr Nik Johnson cancelled the affordable housing project in mid-2021 as part of his election promise and, since March 2022, there has been no formal commitment from CAPCA as to future affordable housing projects. 

733 housing units (started), but only 451 were finished.

Metro Mayor Johnson cancelled the affordable housing project in mid-2021, as part of his election promise.

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Since March 2022, there has been no formal commitment from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) as to future affordable housing projects.

The Combined Authority Board asked the housing committee to consider any future role for CAPCA on funding co-ordination, skills, and community housing.

At the meeting, chair of the housing and communities committee, Cllr Lewis Herbert and director of housing and development, Roger Thompson, proposed a supportive role for CAPCA. 

“CAPCA should maintain the expertise and skills acquired from the housing programme that finished in March 22 along with a capability to respond to future housing initiatives should funding for them become available,” said Mr Thompson. 

Cllr Herbert added: “We’ve maintained a very good relationship with DLUCH throughout this, and there may yet be some flexibility in their decision that future funding for projects from central government could be made available to us. 

“Bearing in mind there is a government review already underway into the governance of CAPCA, it may be that this committee evolves in terms of its focus, and it could take on extra work should the housing funding situation change.” 

A sum of £100 million had originally been promised by the government under the devolution deal to CAPCA back in 2017, targeting a delivery of 2,000 new affordable homes. 

The then minister of state for regional growth and local government, Luke Hall MP, revealed in an exchange of letters with the mayor that the government was most displeased at the apparent lack of progress. 

Despite continued protestations from Palmer that everything was ‘on track’, the project was eventually deemed unaffordable and unachievable. 

In April 2021, government funding for the project was withdrawn, leaving £45 million of the original £100 million still unpaid. 

After Mayor Palmer lost the election to Dr Nik Johnson in May 2021, the ‘second’ affordable housing programme got underway. 

Mayor Johnson delivered an additional 716 units from eight schemes. 

Bringing the two programmes together, the total affordable housing delivered is just 1,449 homes, amounting to 72.5% of the target set by the government’s devolution deal. 

CAPCA has no capital at present beyond its current resources for the building of new affordable housing, and there is very little chance of any additional funds coming from central government. 

Members of the housing and communities committee approved the recommendations and agreed upon a three-zone strategy for affordable housing delivery should funding become available: Peterborough, rural Cambridgeshire and then Greater Cambridge. 

After the meeting, Cllr Herbert said: “The immediate role of CAPCA over the next three years is to oversee roughly £40m of investment in the completion of 1,000 new affordable homes still to be built. 

“These homes are part of schemes approved up until March this year and will ensure schemes meet their agreed commitments in full.” 

He added: “Beyond that, we have no foreseeable additional new national funding for affordable housing from Homes England or the government. 

“We will be ready though to respond should new affordable housing bidding opportunities for combined authorities arise in the future.” 

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority is optimistic it has learned from its mistakes, and should grants become available, it could yet have a role in the delivery of affordable homes.