Government publishes Social Housing White Paper

By Jo Hanslip.

The long-awaited Social Housing White Paper was finally published on  17th November by the Government, setting out a Charter for Social Housing Residents. 

In his foreword, the Secretary of State Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, states that “This Charter for Social Housing Residents sets out to raise the standard of social housing and meet the aspirations of residents throughout the country, today and in the future. It speaks to safety, to quality, to family, to life free from the blight of crime and anti- social behaviour, to the opportunity to move from rent to ownership, where this is possible.”

The Charter identifies seven standards that every social housing resident should be able to expect:

  1. To be safe in your home. We will work with industry and landlords to ensure every home is safe and secure.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. To be treated with respect, backed by a strong consumer regulator and improved consumer standards for tenants.
  5. 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.
  6. To have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in, with your landlord keeping your home in good repair.
  7. To be supported to take your first step to ownership, so it is a ladder to other opportunities, should your circumstances allow.

The Charter states that “A home should provide safety, security and dignity. An opportunity to put down roots and contribute to our community so we can enjoy social and civic lives. Regardless of who you rent from, your landlord should treat you fairly and with respect. And if things go wrong there should be a swift and effective means of redress.

With regards to some of the key commitments, with regards to steps towards home ownership, the paper sets out that: 

In being safe in your home the White Paper states that the Government has already:

  • Made up to £400 million available to social sector landlords to fund the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding of aluminium composite materials on residential social housing buildings over 18 metres, and announced a further £1 billion of grant funding to cover the costs of remediating unsafe non-aluminium composite materials on residential buildings over 18 metres.
  • Published a Building Safety Bill, which sets out an enhanced regulatory regime for all buildings, including a more stringent fire and structural safety regime for higher-risk buildings, with residents having a strong voice in the system.
  • Published a Fire Safety Consultation on Government proposals to implement the recommendations in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s Phase 1 report that require changes to the law.
  • Supported a Social Sector (Building Safety) Engagement Best Practice Group, bringing together social landlords and residents from across the country to test approaches to engagement on building safety.
  • Published a Fire Safety Bill which will clarify the scope of the Fire Safety Order in its application to the structure, external walls and flat entrance doors in multi-occupied residential buildings.

The Government propose to:

  • Legislate to strengthen the Regulator of Social Housing’s consumer regulation objectives to explicitly include safety.
  • Legislate to require social landlords to identify a nominated person responsible for complying with their health and safety requirements.
  • Expect the Regulator of Social Housing to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding with the Health and Safety Executive to ensure effective sharing of information with the Building Safety Regulator.
  • Launch a consultation on mandating smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in social housing.
  • Consult on measures to ensure that social housing residents are protected from harm caused by poor electrical safety.
  • Build on the work of the Social Sector (Building Safety) Engagement Best Practice Group, supporting the development of statutory and good practice guidance on engaging residents in all tenures on safety issues.

In ensuring everyone has a good home and neighbourhood to live in, the Government states that they have:

  • Announced the Green Homes Grant for 2020/21, which social landlords are eligible to bid for, which will fund up to two thirds of the cost of hiring tradespeople to upgrade the energy performance of homes.
  • Announced a £50 million demonstrator project to support the decarbonisation of social housing over 2020/21.
  • Published our 25 Year Environment Plan committing to connect people with the environment to improve health and wellbeing.
  • Encouraged developments that promote health and wellbeing through the National Planning Policy Framework and National Design Guide.
  • Announced a consultation through the Planning for the Future White Paper on proposals to enable more and better green space in development.
  • Committed to expanding access to mental health services through the NHS Long Term Plan. Our investment of a further £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24 will ensure that the NHS provides high quality, evidence-based mental health services to an additional two million people.
  • Acted to tackle segregation and stigmatisation through the planning system.

And they propose to:

  • Review the Decent Homes Standard to consider if it should be updated, including how it can better support the decarbonisation and energy efficiency of social homes, and improve communal and green spaces.
  • Continue to engage with the latest evidence on the impact of housing conditions on health, including COVID-19 transmission, and actively consider options to mitigate these impacts.
  • Review professionalisation to consider how well housing staff are equipped to work with people with mental health needs and encourage best practice for landlords working with those with mental health needs.
  • Clarify the roles of agencies involved in tackling anti-social behaviour and signpost tenants to those agencies who can give them the most appropriate support and assistance when faced with anti- social behaviour.
  • Consider the results of the allocations evidence collection exercise findings to ensure that housing is allocated in the fairest way possible and achieves the best outcomes for local places and communities.

In being supporting in taking first steps towards ownership, the Government sets out that to increase the supply of social homes, they have:

  • Built over 486,600 new affordable homes since 2010, including 142,400 for social rent.
  • Announced our new £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme – the largest single investment in social housing for a decade – that will deliver up to 180,000 new homes.
  • Announced a new £3 billion Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme which aims to provide long- term, low cost and fixed rate debt finance to registered providers.
  • Removed the cap on local authority borrowing to fund housebuilding.
  • Consulted on whether greater flexibilities can be offered around how local authorities can use receipts from Right to Buy sales.
  • Supported community-led housebuilding through the community housing fund.
  • Announced we will consult on further guidance to provide clarity on rural exception sites policy, to ensure they are used to their full potential.

To ensure that more social tenants have the opportunity to buy a home,  the Government has:

  • Introduced a new shared ownership model that will be fairer, more consumer-friendly and more accessible.
  • Announced that around half of the homes delivered by the new Affordable Homes Programme will be for affordable home ownership.
  • Announced a new Right to Shared Ownership, meaning that most new grant-funded housing association homes for rent will give residents the opportunity to purchase a 10% (or more) stake in their home and to purchase further shares in future.
  • Launched a pilot of Voluntary Right to Buy in the Midlands, giving thousands of housing association residents the opportunity to own their home.
  •  Amended the National Planning Policy Framework and published a new national design guide to emphasise the importance of beauty and good design.
  • Emphasised through our new National Design Guide the importance of building beautiful and well-designed social homes

In the White Paper, the Government sets out its intention to:  

  • Build more affordable homes
  • Build more council homes
  • Utilise community led housing schemes
  • Built beautiful
  • Help people to home ownership
  • Establish a new share ownership model  – The new Shared Ownership model will reduce the minimum initial ownership stake from 25% to 10% and will enable purchasers to then buy further shares in smaller instalments of as little as 1%.
  • Supporting residents Right to Buy
  • Right to shared ownership and
  • Supporting leaseholder in social housing

The Full White Paper can be viewed here:

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