While there is a degree of concern in the property industry over the immediate future performance of the top end, or prime market, the latest figures show that social housing had a strong year in 2016, with the hope that the trend continues into 2017 and beyond.

The 2016 Global Accounts of private registered providers by the Homes and Communities Agency shows that the social housing sector has had a solid year of investment underpinned by strong in-year financial performance.

UK Property: 174,000 new homes a year is everything England needs

In 2016, over £7.5bn was invested in new and existing stock as the sector continued to leverage the surpluses generated on its trading activity.

The development of new properties for both shared ownership and outright sale increased markedly in 2016 – a 39% increase in total turnover from this activity on the previous year.

Fiona MacGregor, Director of Regulation said, “The 2016 Global Accounts shows a steady picture in the sector overall with substantial ongoing investment in new and existing properties. This is despite the increase in debt being lower than that reported in 2015. A marked increase in turnover from commercial activities is an indicator of how providers are maintaining development levels in a more uncertain operating environment. We will remain vigilant as providers continue to adapt, and expect their risk management and mitigation approaches to keep pace with their activities.”

James Prestwich, Head of Policy at the National Housing Federation, said: “In total, housing associations delivered a third of all new homes in the country in 2015/16 and our members have ambitions to build even more in the future.

“The development of homes for shared ownership and market sale has generated surpluses which will be reinvested into homes and communities across the country. Diversifying in this way has also highlighted housing associations’ determination to deliver a true offer to everyone in a changing housing market.

“But housing associations are also planning for the future. By driving down costs, the sector will be well-equipped to deal with the challenging financial years ahead.”

Also announced in the past week is the fact that property repossessions fell again in 2016, by a total of almost 25 per cent.

The latest figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders show that the number declined by almost 25 per cent. Last year’s total of 7,700 cases of possession compared with 10,200 in 2015, and was the lowest number since 1982. Over the course of 2016, the number of mortgages in arrears also fell by 7 per cent.

The number of possession cases declined in the fourth quarter of 2016, as well as over the year as a whole. In the final three months of the year, 1,800 properties were taken into possession, down from 1,900 in the preceding quarter and 2,200 in the final quarter of 2015.

New Factories to Aid House Building

Across the market as a whole, there was “significant improvement” in the number of mortgages with more modest levels of arrears (up to 5 per cent of the outstanding balance). There was, however, an increase over 2016 in the number of mortgages with arrears of more than 10 per cent of the balance, from 23,700 to 26,000.

Commenting on the data, CML director general Paul Smee says:

“It is encouraging to see another improvement in arrears and possessions during a year in which borrowers were clearly helped by the downward trend in mortgage rates.”