Providing a safe and decent home

The Green Paper highlights a commitment to provide all residents with a safe and decent home, whether they are in the private or social sector. The Green Paper contains a proposal to revisit and review the Decent Homes Standard, last reviewed in 2006 and suggests that any revised Standard also apply to private sector residents. Given questions around the capability of Tenant Management Organisations, the paper looks at the best model for on-going maintenance of properties – including looking at stock transfers from local authorities to housing associations.

Greater tenancy engagement

A further key commitment is resident empowerment. The proposals commit the Government to improving the accessibility, speed and transparency of the resident complaints process. Key proposals include removing the existing democratic filter, requiring disgruntled residents to refer complaints to their MP or councillor and a commitment to reduce the current 8 week period before a complaint can be referred to the Housing Ombudsman.

Strengthening the regulator

Regulation of the sector is likely to move away from the recent “light touch regime” to a more proactive approach. We expect to see updated consumer standards, with the Regulator being able to bring enforcement action even when there is no “serious detriment” to tenants. This could herald a return to IDAs on consumer standards.

The Regulator is expected to have new powers to review the governance arrangements of local authorities, to ensure that all social housing residents have the same protections.

League tables will be introduced, measuring housing providers against agreed KPIs. The KPIs are likely to be around repairs; safety; complaints; resident engagement; and management of the neighbourhood. Performance against the KPIs may impact on the housing provider’s governance rating, and on any application for Affordable Homes Programme funding.

Safeguarding and domestic abuse

The paper pledges to bring forward legislation to protect lifetime tenants who are survivors of domestic abuse with lifetime tenancies in new homes. We welcome this news and hope that safeguarding and tackling domestic abuse forms part of the legislative changes in the year to come.

Home ownership

The paper pledges a scheme to offer tenants the right to buy 1% of their home each year, which is good news for tenants.

New borrowing capacity

Local authorities will gain greater flexibility to encourage them to develop, including new borrowing capacity and the ability to use their Right to Buy receipts to build new homes

What's missing?

Perhaps a missed opportunity, in the Green Paper, is a focus on practical support to deliver new homes. In particular, there is no mention of the supply chain, which is under increasing pressure to meet the Government’s ambitious targets for developing new homes by 2020 and 2025. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency to help tackle the current housing crisis.

What's next?

More than 8,000 people have already fed into the Green Paper, and more views will be sought during the consultation period, which is set to close on 6 November. We encourage everyone to share your views and input into this debate. We welcome this paper and will look to scrutinise it further to help get the best deal for social housing.

Our experts are sharing their views on some the issues raised and you can listen to their thoughts in tomorrow's video (available via @CapsticksSH or on our website).