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The government’s social housing white paper explained

Jessica Nangle

November 19, 2020

The government recently published a social housing white paper with a seven point charter of what a social housing resident should be able to expect.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the proposals in this white paper make clear “the standards that every social tenant in England is entitled to expect from their landlords.

“They will ensure that people feel safe and secure in their homes, can get problems fixed before they spiral out of control, and see exactly how good their landlord is at dealing with complaints.

“Above all, it will give social housing tenants a voice, and ensure that it is listened to.”

The white paper follows the Grenfell Tower Tragedy in 2017, and is implementing measures to reform the social housing sector for a better future.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick commented: “One of the privileges of my time as Secretary of State has been meeting with the bereaved and survivors of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

“Their courage and grace shone through on each encounter, however harrowing and heart breaking the stories they told.

“Those most affected by the events at Grenfell Tower understandably seek answers and justice and that is what an independent public inquiry aims to provide.

“But, it is clear to me they also seek positive action and change for the benefit of others.

“I do not presume to assert that this white paper alone answers that desire, but it is in that spirit that we publish it and will ensure its aims and ambitions are realised.”

One step of the charter outlines safety in the home, with the government committing to ensure all homes are safe through raised safety standards and legislations.

When it comes to tenants challenging their landlords, the white paper outlines that it will create a set of tenant satisfaction measures for landlords on things that matter to them, along with new access to information that relating to landlords is easily available.

The government has emphasised that residents should get “swift and effective” resolution of complaints, however many residents have claimed that making a complaint currently is both difficult and takes too long.

The white paper has outlined that the government has recently acted to speed up access to the Housing Ombudsman by removing the need for residents to either go to a ‘designated person’ or wait eight weeks before approaching the ombudsman directly.

Landlords will also be held more accountable for their actions according to the charter, as they will need to publicise the details of cases determined and published by the ombudsman.

Transformation of consumer regulation is needed according to the white paper.

The charter sets to transform the consumer regulation role of the Regulator of Social Housing so it monitors landlords’ compliance with improved consumer standards, and to give the regulator the power to publish a code of practice on the consumer standards.

Also amongst the charter is the increased support to allow many to take their first step to ownership, by continuing to increase the supply of good quality social homes.

The government outlines that they have invested £11.5bn to build up to 180,000 affordable homes, representing the highest single funding commitment to affordable housing in a decade.

The charter states that half of these new homes will be for affordable home ownership, and that a new and more accessible model for shared ownership will be implemented.

The white paper outlines that the government will be introducing a new Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme, and a new Right to Shared Ownership for tenants of housing associations and other private registered providers who live in new grant funded homes for rent.

Many associations have welcomed the white paper and claim that it is both “constructive” and “practical”.

The National Housing Federation reacted: “We’ve welcomed the white paper as backing the sector’s own proactive work to improve accountability, quality, and transparent relationships with residents.

“We’re pleased that the paper welcomes the sector’s proactive work on Together with Tenants and acknowledges both the importance of social housing and the good work of many social landlords.

“Some of the changes proposed in the paper may be challenging to implement or require further detail, but overall the paper is constructive and practical.

“It’s particularly welcome that housing associations’ vital independence will not be at risk by being subject to FOI.

“The government has also been clear that it is ready work collaboratively with the sector to shape the detail of the proposals.

“The paper comes at a time when housing associations have been working hard to support residents and communities through the pandemic.

“Together with other proposed reforms to shared ownership, planning, and building safety regulation, there will be a lot of change for housing associations to work through at a difficult and disrupted time.”

Fiona MacGregor, chief executive of the Regulator of Social Housing, added: “We welcome the publication of the white paper and its vision for a social housing sector which values and responds to the voices of tenants.

“We will maintain our robust approach to economic regulation and look forward to working with tenants, landlords and other stakeholders to implement the changes to the consumer regulation framework.”

Gavin Smart, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, looks forward to working with the government to ensure the white paper’s plans are met.

Smart said: “We welcome the intention of the white paper, which puts tenants front and centre and aims to address the stigmatisation of social housing and people who live in social housing.

“Our work to recognise and enhance the professionalism of the housing sector very much complements the themes set out in the paper and we look forward to working with government and the Regulator of Social Housing to embed these across the sector.”

The measures in the white paper apply to social housing landlords and residents in England.

The white paper can be viewed here.


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