We’re taking part in a consultation to help shape the future of social housing. Our policy, research and new initiatives manager Tony Price explains what it’s all about and how you can get involved.
The Government have published a Social Housing Green Paper setting out their thinking for the future of housing. Ideas in Green Paper’s often end up as legislation or strategy so this gives us a good overview of where the current Government want housing to go.
The Green Paper is wide-ranging and covers a lot of diverse subjects. It does have five principles:
- Ensuring homes are safe and decent
- Effective resolution of complaints
- Empowering residents and strengthening the regulator
- Tackling stigma and celebrating thriving communities
- Expanding supply and supporting homeownership
In a post-Grenfell world, no one is going to disagree with an increased focus on property safety, particularly fire safety, and there are a number of proposals including changes to the regulations around property compliance and taking more notice of tenant complaints.
There are a number of proposals on how to improve the speed and effectiveness of complaints handling including more emphasis on mediation and streamlining existing processes. Again, no one should disagree with the thrust of these.
Empowering residents is probably the centrepiece of the Green Paper and is wide-ranging including enhanced performance reporting, increasing transparency and accountability, strengthening resident engagement and choice, increasing value for money for leaseholders and possible changes to regulations to better define what a good service is.
The chapter on tackling stigma is primarily about addressing the demonisation of social housing and communities, including celebrating and promoting thriving communities with social housing at their heart. There are a number of ideas including a good neighbourhood competition (which frankly misses the point entirely) and the strengthening of existing guidance and regulations (for example, around enhancing secure by design standards for new builds). This will probably be the hardest section to achieve.
The final section of the Green Paper looks to support the Government ambition to develop 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020’s. The main idea in this section has already been trialled, long-term partnerships with key housing providers giving certainty to increase delivery of new homes. There is still a clear focus on encouraging homeownership however. This section also considers the balance between providing funding to housing associations or local authorities – an interesting debate, particularly if there is a change of Government nationally.
There are some significant omissions from the Green Paper including any detail on the impact of welfare reforms, particularly Universal Credit, on social housing tenants and no substantive mention of the long promised Green Paper on Social Care which will impact on a number of social housing tenants. Without meaningful links to these other strategic issues, anything that emerges from the Social Housing Green Paper will have a limited impact.
In summary, the Green Paper is wide ranging and the Government have made an effort to listen to the concerns of tenants, residents and housing providers. There are some good ideas suggested, and some bad ones, as well as a reminder of promises already made. There does seem to be some determination from the Government to at least start addressing stigma issues and giving residents more say in the management of their homes. However, there needs to be much more work with communities and providers to deliver the good ideas and recast the bad ones. As ever, the level of resources available will be key.
We're taking part in the consultation and you can too, the Green Paper can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/a-new-deal-for-social-housing