Savills’ Affordable Housing Consultancy has shared its thoughts on the publication of the Social Housing White Paper, published earlier today.
In a comprehensive analysis of the White Paper – titled The Charter for Social Housing Residents – Savills draws a number of insights from what director Kelsey Walker calls a “huge programme of work”.
Consumer standards inspections
Commenting on the proposal for consumer standards ‘inspections’, Walker said: “This is a huge programme of work.
“Four-yearly consumer inspection reviews will be carried out for large housing associations, local authorities, and smaller housing providers presenting a high risk against the consumer standards, such as specialist supported housing providers.
“This equates to over 400 organisations with a total of 100 inspections a year.”
She added: “However, it is likely these inspections will not be carried out at the same time as in-depth assessments, given the different drivers for prioritisation.
“There need to be changes in legislation to give the minister the power to direct the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) in some areas, so there is a process to go through.
“In the meantime, the RSH can already ask housing providers to publish information, and there is bound to be a focus on consulting on appropriate KPIs.”
Commenting on the role of the regulator, Walker said: “Some people had called for a new, separate regulator to be set up to oversee consumer regulation, but the rationale to reduce complexity and have one regulator seems sound.
“However, it is important to balance the economic and consumer regulation role so that both maintain the confidence of stakeholders.
“It would seem that the consumer ‘arm’ or ‘division’ could double the size of regulatory operations of the RSH – there needs to be clarity on how this will be paid for to ensure the necessary resource is in place.”
More on the Social Housing White Paper:
- In full: Boris Johnson’s Social Housing White Paper foreword
- Jenrick reveals Social Housing White Paper reforms
- Post-Grenfell social housing reforms set to be revealed
On the impact for governance of housing providers, Walker said: “It is clear that the co-regulatory approach is applicable to consumer regulation, as it is with economic regulation, and this is to be welcomed.
“This isn’t about inspecting buildings but proactive, intelligence-led, risk-based assurance on compliance with the consumer standards.
“Regulation can’t take the place of a skilled board, but new powers provide more protection to ensure those landlords who are failing in their responsibilities around safety and consumer issues address the issues in a timely and effective way – or the RSH will.
“Tenant involvement options are flexible, which enables the continued thoughtful way in which providers have been considering how to further involve tenants in decisions and service provision.”
On the impact for local authorities, Kelsey added: “The relationship between local authorities and arm’s-length management organisations [ALMOs] or Tenant Management Organisations [TMOs] becomes more contractual, and contracts can be ended if they hinder compliance to regulatory standards.
“Third-party delivery on compliance programmes is an area of weakness highlighted by the RSH in its most recent consumer regulation review.
“Local authorities need to ensure they take account of these responsibilities.”
In summary, Walker said: “The proactive approach to consumer regulation will need further consultation, a change in legislation, and a new operational approach to be developed by the RSH.
“However, the Social Housing White Paper clearly sets out the expectations on landlords, and so the sector can continue to prepare as a result.”
Image: Kelsey Walker, director, Savills Affordable Housing Consultancy
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