Social Housing Speed Read: The Social Housing White Paper
23rd November, 2020
Last week saw the publishing of the long-awaited Social Housing White Paper. Three years after it was first announced by ex-Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, the paper sets out the Government's new Charter for social housing residents and details new policy measures. It serves to make clear "the standards that every social tenant in England is entitled to expect from their landlords", with a particular focus on the learnings from the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the changes that will be made as a result. We provide a summary below.
The new Charter
The new Charter states that all social housing residents should expect the following:
- To be safe in your home;
- To know how your landlord is performing, including on repairs, complaints and safety, and how it spends its money, so you can hold it to account;
- To have your complaints dealt with promptly and fairly, with access to a strong ombudsman who will give you swift and fair redress when needed;
- To be treated with respect, backed by a strong consumer regulator and improved consumer standards for tenants;
- To have your voice heard by your landlord, for example through regular meetings, scrutiny panels or being on its Board. The Government will provide help, if you want it, to give you the tools to ensure your landlord listens;
- To have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in, with your landlord keeping your home in good repair; and
- To be supported to take you first step to ownership, so it is a ladder to other opportunities, should your circumstances allow.
The paper states that landlords will be held to account by a new regulatory regime, requiring them to:
- be transparent about their performance and decision-making;
- put things right when they go wrong; and
- listen to tenants through effective engagement.
The proposed new policy measures are relatively extensive, however key policies and suggestions include:
- Launching a consultation on requiring smoke alarms in social housing and introducing new expectations for carbon monoxide alarms.
- Legislating to require social landlords to identify a nominated person responsible for complying with their health and safety requirements.
- Creating a set of tenant satisfaction measures for landlords on things that matter to tenants (draft measures included at chapter 2 of the paper)
- Ensuring that landlords provide a clear breakdown of how their income is being spent (including transparency on chief executives’ salaries, executive remuneration costs and management costs).
- Reviewing the Decent Homes Standard, including access to and the quality of green spaces (aiming to complete the first part of the review by autumn 2021)
- Reviewing professional training and development to ensure residents receive a high standard of customer service.
- Investing £11.5 billion to build up to 180,000 affordable homes – the highest single funding commitment to affordable housing in a decade. Around half of these new homes will be for affordable home ownership.
- Introducing a new Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme.
- Tackling anti-social behaviour by enabling tenants to know who is responsible for action and who can support and assist them if they are faced with anti-social behaviour (clarifying the different responsibilities that police, councils and housing associations have).
- Delivering a new opportunities and empowerment programme for social housing residents, to support more effective engagement between landlords and residents, and to give residents tools to influence their landlords and hold them to account.
The full Social Housing White Paper can be viewed here.
Good landlords have been doing much of this as part of their daily business; it’s in their organisational DNA. The White Paper will however require providers to undertake an in-depth review of policies process and structures to ensure they are in a position to evidence compliance with the new Charter and standards, as we see a tenant engagement and empowerment return to centre stage, following a long period of focus largely on governance, finance and risk.
If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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