The Social Housing White Paper – Giving Tenants a Voice
In November 2020 the UK Government published the Social Housing White Paper to build on previous commitments and deliver transformational change for social housing residents. The Paper applies to homes in England.
The provision of safe housing that supports and encourages prosperous neighbourhoods and communities has been at the cornerstone of UK governments since the pioneering social housing efforts of George Cadbury, Joseph Rowntree and George Peabody during the late nineteenth / early twentieth century. This sector now delivers housing to over 4 million UK households.
The Social Housing White Paper aims:
To provide clarity on the standards that every social tenant in England is entitled to expect from their landlords
To raise the standard of social housing
To meet the housing aspirations of residents now and in future
To provide quality (across all aspects of Social Housing)
To provide safe environments free from crime & anti-social behaviour
To feel protected and empowered by a regulatory regime and a culture of transparency, accountability, decency and service befitting intentions and traditions of social housing
To provide routes to owning own home
The Charter for Social Housing Residents sits at the heart of paper and outlines seven key commitments that residents should expect from their landlords. Outlined under each commitment is the governments intended actions.
1. To be safe in their home. Homes are safe and secure.
Explicitly including ‘safety’ in the Regulator of Social Housing’s (RSH) consumer regulations
Consulting on the requirement for smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms
Legislating a requirement for landlords to nominate a person responsible for health and safety compliance
2. To know how their landlord is performing so they can hold them to account, including: repairs, complaints, safety, and on how it spends its money.
The introduction of a set of ‘Tenant Satisfaction Measures’ for social landlords to report into
Consultation on giving tenants an FOI style access to information from landlords
Requirements for landlords to publish executive salaries and management costs
3. To have their complaints dealt with promptly and fairly, including access to an Ombudsman
Introducing legislation for transparent communication between the RSH and the Housing Ombudsman
4. To be treated with respect - backed by a stronger RSH and improved consumer standards
Moving from a reactive regulatory system to a proactive one by removing the ‘serious detriment test’ (a direct response to failures demonstrated in the Grenfell Tower tragedy)
Government will look to directly influence changes to the consumer regulation framework following conversations with tenants, landlords and stakeholders
5. To have their voice heard by their landlord, (Regular meetings, scrutiny panels or Board positions).
The RSH is expected to require landlords to demonstrate their considerations towards improved tenant engagement
The establishment of a professional training, development, and qualification standard for social housing staff in multiple roles (including senior staff)
6. To have a good quality home, kept in good repair and a good neighbourhood to live in.
Ongoing review of the Decent Home Standard to include decarbonisation and placemaking
Consult on data presented from the ‘allocation evidence collection exercises’ to ensure the fairest provision of social housing and best outcomes for places and communities.
7. To be supported in taking their first steps into ownership.
Introducing a new Right to Shared Ownership scheme to tenants to reinvigorate home ownership for housing association tenants
Overall, the Social Housing White Paper conveys a balanced approach that looks to put tenant interest back at the front and centre of Social Housing. The fallout from Grenfell Tower and Covid-19 have acted as catalysts for change.
While in summary the paper is very positive, one significant shortcoming is the lack of commitment towards the provision of more homes. A shortage of social housing supply to meet demand remains a key problem area.
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