News

13Feb2019
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A new deal for Social Housing

On 14 August the government published a social housing green paper entitled ‘A New Deal for Social Housing which sets out a proposed strategy for reforming social housing.

In the introduction Theresa May (Prime Minister) said:

“…we will ensure our social homes are safe and decent, that issues are resolved and residents’ voices are heard. We will begin to tackle the stigma which for too long has been associated with social housing. And we will ensure we build the good quality social homes that we need…”

The Green paper is based around five core themes:

  1. Ensuring homes are safe and decent
  2. Effective resolution of complaints
  3. Empowering residents and strengthening the regulator
  4. Tackling stigma and celebrating thriving communities
  5. Expanding supply and supporting home ownership

The green paper is a consultation paper, it contained 48 questions and responses were asked to be returned by 6th November 2018. Gentoo staff and customers were involved in our response and we are now awaiting the outcome of the consultation, which is expected in Spring.

Many of the proposals put forward are broad statements of intent, or the government has presented a number of options to deal with a perceived problem. Some more information on each of the core themes is below along with relevant updates.

Ensuring homes are safe and decent:

The government proposes:

  • Implementing the recommendations from the Hackitt Review of building regulations and fire safety, legislating to fundamentally reform the current system
  • Establishing a pilot with a group of social landlords who would trial options to improve communication and engagement with residents on safety issues
  • Reviewing the decent homes standard. This might include adding new requirements around energy efficiency and fire safety to mirror those recently introduced in the private rented sector.

Update:

We have been asked to respond to a ‘Call for Evidence’ about how residents are supported to meet responsibilities to keep homes and buildings safe. On 30th January a CHAIN group made up of customers who live in our apartments and sheltered schemes will be involved in a response to this call for evidence.

Complaints resolution

The government proposes:

  • A number of possible options to improve the way that complaints about social landlords are handled, including looking at ways to speed up landlords’ internal complaints processes, for example by asking the regulator to set out some suggested timings in a code of practice
  • Exploring ways to improve the use of mediation in landlord/tenant disputes o looking at ways to raise awareness among tenants of their rights and the options available to them to make a complaint about their landlord
  • Reforming or removing the requirement that complainants go through a ‘designated person’ (an MP, councillor or tenant panel) or wait eight weeks before they can contact the Ombudsman with a complaint.

Update:

On 24th January the government announced plans to create a new single complaints service for renters and homeowners in England. Private landlords will be legally required to register with the complaints system or will face a fine. In the announcement about this the government stated that complaints system for social housing residents are being considered separately and will be published in spring.

Empowering residents and strengthening the regulator

The government proposes:

  • Requiring all landlords to provide data on a number of key performance indicators to the regulator for regular publication. The regulator would then publish these in the form of league tables to enable comparison between landlords. Performance could then be taken into account when government funding is being allocated to individual landlords, for example to support the development of new homes
  • Considering a number of potential changes to the system of regulation for social landlords. A separate call for evidence has also been published on this subject. Potential changes could include: enabling the regulator to take a more proactive approach to enforcing the ‘consumer standards’ (covering tenant involvement and empowerment, homes, tenancies and neighbourhoods and communities) and/or giving the regulator more powers to scrutinise the performance of local authority landlords
  • Considering options to give tenants a voice on policy issues at a national level, including perhaps establishing a representative body
  • Looking at a variety of options to promote more community ownership, or community leadership of social landlords.

Tackling stigma

The government proposes:

  • Providing support for community events and initiatives
  • Encouraging greater levels of professionalism and a ‘customer service culture’ within the social housing sector
  • Publishing further guidance on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to encourage new affordable homes to be designed to the same standard as other tenures and ensuring these are well integrated within developments.

Update:

Gentoo’s customers are taking part in some research being carried out by the University of Leeds examining the issues of customer service in social housing. A number of social housing landlords and their custo9mers are involved in this research.

Expanding supply and supporting home ownership

The government proposes:

  • Scrapping plans to require councils to sell their most valuable homes as they become vacant, in order to fund the extension of the right to buy to all housing association tenants
  • Giving councils new flexibilities to spend the money raised from right to buy sales on new homes. A separate consultation has been launched to look at this issue
  • Scrapping plans to require councils to offer all new tenants a tenancy for a fixed term. Local authorities will still be able to use fixed term tenancies at their discretion
  • Ensuring that where an existing secure/ assured tenant needs to move as a result of domestic abuse, they are always able to retain their lifetime tenancy
  • Entering into deals with some housing associations to provide certainty over government funding over a longer period than is currently possible. This is intended to address the ‘stop-start’ nature of government’s current approach to allocating funding for five years at a time
  • Looking at ways to support the development of more community-led house building
  • gathering further evidence on how the current approach to social housing allocations is working in practice in different parts of the country
  • looking at ways to make it easier for new shared owners to increase their stake in their home in the future. This might include, for example, allowing them to buy much smaller increments than are usually possible.

The green paper makes an important contribution to the critical debate about what we think social housing is, what it does and what we want it to be in the 21st century. As the updates would suggest things are beginning to happen in response to the green paper and we expect further significant change. For more information please click here