England: ‘Landmark’ charter to improve social housing and give residents a greater voice



A new social housing charter has been launched in England which sets out reforms that aim to speed up the complaints procedure for residents and make landlords more accountable.

The social housing white paper – ‘The Charter for Social Housing Residents’, sets out reforms that 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.

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 every social housing resident should expect from their landlord:

  1. To be safe in your home. We will work with industry and landlords to ensure every home is safe and secure.
  2. To know how your landlord is performing, including on repairs, complaints and safety, and how it spends its money, so you can hold it to account.
  3. To have your complaints dealt with promptly and fairly, with access to a strong Ombudsman who will give you swift and fair redress when needed.
  4. To be treated with respect, backed by a strong consumer regulator and improved consumer standards for tenants.
  5. To have your voice heard by your landlord, for example through regular meetings, scrutiny panels or being on its Board. The government will provide help, if you want it, to give you the tools to ensure your landlord listens.
  6. To have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in, with your landlord keeping your home in good repair.
  7. To be supported to take your first step to ownership, so it is a ladder to other opportunities, should your circumstances allow.

The white paper sets out what the government will do to ensure landlords deliver this change. Most significantly, the government is reforming the Regulator of Social Housing and Housing Ombudsman service to drive the culture change required, backed by legislation where needed.

Alongside publishing the white paper, the housing secretary Robert Jenrick 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.

Mr 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 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 4 million social homes in the years ahead.”

Gavin Smart, the Chartered Institute of Housing’s chief executive, 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.”

 

Carol Matthews, Riverside Group chief executive, said: “The white paper contains a number of very sensible proposals around consumer regulation, complaint handling, sector accountability and buildings. The review of the decent homes standard is most welcome.

“I am relieved that the existing social housing regulator will be expanded to fulfil the responsibilities of a proactive consumer regulator. It is right and proper that landlords should be accountable to and transparent with their customers and stakeholders.

“I am certain that housing associations who have signed up to the National Housing Federation ‘Together with Tenants’ programme are progressing culture change and customer experience improvements where necessary.”

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, added: “The publication of the Social Housing White Paper is an important and welcome milestone in the country’s response to the fire at Grenfell Tower. 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.

“We are pleased that the government acknowledges again here the vital role of social housing in building lives and communities. This is true now more than ever, as the country navigates the devastating impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, with social housing landlords being critical partners in delivering frontline services to people who need these most.

“Housing associations have demonstrated commitment to being 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 working closely and collaboratively with the Government to deliver on these welcome reforms.”



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