In November the DLUHC select committee launched a new inquiry into the Regulation of Social Housing. This came almost exactly twelve months after the publication of The charter for social housing residents. In those twelve months, there has been little action from government to turn that White Paper into legislation, meanwhile a series of media reports have raised widespread concern and understandable anger about the condition of some social housing in the UK.
At PlaceShapers, we spoke to members and residents from across the country before writing our response. We focused on contextualising the quality of social housing across the UK, highlighting the pressures the sector is under and pushing for progress on the White Paper’s proposals.
England has some of the oldest and least sustainable housing in Europe. The social housing sector performs better than other tenure types in this regard, but this is no consolation for residents who find themselves in non-decent housing. The safety and wellbeing of existing residents should always be the sector’s priority. And when we don’t get it right, regulation should be strong enough to uphold standards and help residents resolve issues.
Both our members and the residents we spoke to have supported the White Paper since its outset. More proactive consumer regulation will lead to improvements and more accountability. We heard from residents that in current regulation the ‘serious detriment’ test sets the bar too high, and that new regulation should set much clearer consumer standards for housing providers to adhere to.
Social Housing regulation should also promote a better culture within the sector. Communication, transparency, and collaboration with residents is key to this. At PlaceShapers we are proud to have been working alongside residents, the Ombudsman and Regulator to improve services. Our members ‘don’t wait’ attitude to regulation means many have already implemented changes based on the White Paper.
What we need now is a concerted effort from Government to enable the provisions of the White Paper to become law as soon as possible.
It is promising that Government is now aiming to publish the regulation bill in March. With the select committee beginning their oral evidence sessions this week, which will include contributions from PlaceShapers, we look forward to their recommendations and hope that this will build momentum as legislation is put before parliament in the near future.