Major reforms to support housing tenants in England and ensure landlords raise standards where needed have been announced today by Housing secretary Robert Jenrick.
The Social Housing White Paper – The Charter for Social Housing Residents – sets out reforms that, in theory, will speed up the complaints procedure for residents by improving access to the Housing Ombudsman, reducing decision times, and ensuring effective resolution.
The Charter will also make landlords more accountable for the services they deliver, including access to a new information scheme for tenants of housing associations and introducing a set of tenant satisfaction measures that landlords will have to report against.
Initially promted by the 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy, the planned reforms have been beset by delays attributable to a combination of short-lived housing secretaries and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ministry for Housing, Communities, and Local Government (MHCLG) says the White Paper delivers on the government’s manifesto pledge to provide greater redress, better regulation, and improve the quality of social housing.
Shaped by the views of residents across England, including the survivors and bereaved family members of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it also includes a new Charter setting out what social housing residents should expect from their landlord:
- To be safe in your home
- To know how your landlord is performing
- To have your complaints dealt with promptly and fairly
- To be treated with respect, backed by a strong consumer regulator
- To have your voice heard by your landlord
- To have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in
- Government will ensure social housing can support people to take their first step to ownership
To ensure landlords deliver the type of change described in the White Paper, the government has revealed it will be reforming the Regulator of Social Housing and Housing Ombudsman service, and says these reforms will be backed by legislation where needed.
In response, Fiona MacGregor, chief executive of the Regulator of Social Housing, said: “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.”
Alongside publishing the White Paper, the Housing Secretary also announced a consultation on mandating smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in all rental homes.
The social housing Green Paper consultation response and response to the Call for Evidence on the Review of Regulation is also published today.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We are delivering on the commitment we made to the Grenfell community that, never again, would the voices of residents go unheard.
“This White Paper will bring transformational change for social housing residents, giving them a much stronger voice and, in doing so, re-focusing the sector on its social mission.
“I want to see social housing tenants empowered by a regulatory regime and a culture of transparency, accountability, decency and public service befitting of the best intentions and deep roots of social housing in this country.
“The new approach and regulatory changes we set out in this White Paper will make a measurable difference to the lived experiences of those living in England’s four million social homes in the years ahead.”
Today’s measures follow extensive engagement and consultation with residents’ and landlord groups – as well as hearing directly from those most affected by the Grenfell tragedy.
The measures also reflect responses to the Social Housing Green Paper published in 2018, in which residents from across the country were asked for their views on social housing.
Almost 1,000 tenants shared their views with ministers at 14 events across the country, with over 7,000 submitting their opinions, issues, and concerns online.
The White Paper also reaffirms the government’s ambition to provide social housing residents with more opportunities to own their home via Right to Buy and a new Right to Shared Ownership for housing association tenants in new grant-funded homes.
Responding to the White Paper, Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation (NHF), said: “The publication of the Social Housing White Paper is an important and welcome milestone in the country’s response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
“The sector has been unwavering in its commitment to strengthening the relationships between housing associations and their residents.
“The White Paper offers much needed certainty as we continue this work.
“The NHF and its members have made significant progress on tenant relations and engagement by developing our own resident charter, and we hope to see this work recognised in the White Paper as a standard by which the sector can continue making improvements, especially over the time it takes for the new system to be up and running.
“Housing associations have demonstrated willingness to be more accountable and transparent, and we believe that the White Paper represents a natural progression of the work we have been doing.
“We look forward to seeing the detail in the white paper so we can continue working with residents, the government, and the Regulator of Social Housing to deliver these important reforms.”
Gavin Smart, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), 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.”
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