Monthly Archives

October 2018

Today is Independence Day for the English social housing regulator

By | Social Housing

As the Regulator of Social Housing becomes independent today, Fiona MacGregor writes that it is essential to have a standalone, fee-funded regulator


Today is a big day for the Regulator of Social Housing, as we become an organisation in our own right.

This change in status brings into effect the conclusion of the tailored review of the Homes and Communities Agency, which began back in February 2016.

It has not been a quiet time for the regulator, or for the sector, in that period.

Among other things, the Welfare Reform and Work Act introduced rent reductions, which are now in their third year.

The roll-out of Universal Credit is building up pace, with increasing numbers of social housing tenants covered by the new regime.

Private registered providers were classified to the public sector and then re-classified as private sector bodies by the Office for National Statistics following the implementation of de-regulation measures, including the removal of the regulator’s consents powers.

Over that period, we have successfully introduced and refined our operating model, which includes the ‘in-depth assessment’ approach on which we continue to receive good feedback.

We have also recently seen the introduction of the housing administration regime although, as with our moratorium powers, our aim would be to identify and remedy issues before those powers need to be used.

Our recent experience with a number of cases that have been non-compliant has shown that although we will always be co-regulatory in our approach, we stand prepared to take decisive regulatory action when necessary.

Sadly, there has also been the tragic Grenfell Tower fire which is currently the subject of a public inquiry.

While we await the government’s response to the recommendations of the Hackitt Review, the events at Grenfell Tower have sparked a significant public debate, as well as a debate across the sector, about how best to meet the needs and aspirations of tenants.

Some of those questions are reflected in the government’s recently published Social Housing Green Paper, as well as in the call for evidenceon the Review of Social Housing Regulation.

We urge as many stakeholders as possible to respond to both of these consultations, and for landlords, to reflect the views of your tenants in doing so. You can only shape the debate if you participate.

The green paper consultation may lead to changes in the role and remit of the regulator.

We are confident that, as a standalone body, we will be able to adapt to further changes as they emerge. Indeed, one of our core values, developed by our staff, states “we are agile and react positively to change”.

In the meantime, however, we think it is a huge tribute to our staff that you will not have seen any diminution in focus in our current role, and in our effective regulation, as we have prepared ourselves to become standalone. Support for that role, and for the way we undertake it, was underlined in the results of our recent Stakeholder Survey.

Becoming standalone means changes for us, such as the Regulation Committee becoming the board of the Regulator of Social Housing.

But for the sector, and our stakeholders, we actually hope that you will see no change in the things that matter to you – effective and proportionate regulation.

There can be no doubt that the need for effective economic regulation remains, alongside an increased focus on providing good services to consumers, both of which were very much reflected in the prime minister’s recent speech to the National Housing Summit.

The changes we have seen in recent years, along with any to come, reinforce for us that it is essential to have a strong, standalone fee-funded regulator, in line with the findings of the tailored review.

Source: Inside Housing

People should be proud of their council house – Theresa May

By | Residential Property, Social Housing

People who live in council houses should be made to feel proud of their homes, Theresa May has said.

The PM announced £2bn to build new homes in England, in an attempt to remove the “stigma” of social housing.

Under the plan, housing associations, councils and other organisations will be able to bid for the money to spend on new projects, starting from 2022.

Labour said the announcement fell “far short” of what was needed for the social housing sector.

BBC home editor Mark Easton said the government hopes the money will allow local authorities and housing associations to build schemes that would otherwise seem too risky.

He said the sector’s calls to provide more confidence about future funding – so the 300,000 extra homes required in England each year can be built – had appeared to have been listened to.

Mrs May told a National Housing Federation summit in London: “Some residents feel marginalised and overlooked, and are ashamed to share the fact that their home belongs to a housing association or local authority.

“On the outside, many people in society – including too many politicians – continue to look down on social housing and, by extension, the people who call it their home.”

She will encourage housing associations to change how tenants and society view social housing.

“We should never see social housing as something that need simply be ‘good enough’, nor think that the people who live in it should be grateful for their safety net and expect no better,” she said.

“I want to see social housing that is so good people are proud to call it their home… our friends and neighbours who live in social housing are not second-rate citizens.”

In mixed developments, she said it should be impossible to tell the difference between full-price and affordable housing, which should not be “tucked away out of sight and out of mind”.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said the prime minister’s announcement was “extremely welcome”.

“This represents a total step change. For years, the way that money was allocated meant housing associations couldn’t be sure of long-term funding to build much-needed affordable housing,” he said.

He said that by changing the way the funding was allocated, ministers had given “long-term confidence and confirmed that we are trusted partners in solving the housing crisis, building new homes and communities”.

But shadow housing secretary John Healey said the reality was spending on new affordable homes had been “slashed” and the number of new social rented homes built last year “fell to the lowest level since records began”.

“If Conservative ministers are serious about fixing the housing crisis they should back Labour’s plans to build a million genuinely affordable homes, including the biggest council house-building programme for more than 30 years,” he said.

The English housing survey for 2016/17 reported that 3.9 million households – about nine million people – lived in the social rented sector, which was 17% of households in the country.

The funding covers the next spending review period, from 2021 through to 2028.

Downing Street said the money was separate to the £9bn of public funding put toward the existing affordable homes programme until 2022.

Source: BBC News

 

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