England: Social housing green paper promises ‘new deal’ for social housing tenants

New measures which aim to “rebalance” the relationship between landlords and residents are to be considered as part of government proposals on social housing in England.

A green paper published today includes plans to speed up the complaints process and publish league tables to highlight the performance of landlords.

Residents 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 five core themes emerging from the green paper are: tackling stigma and celebrating thriving communities; expanding supply and supporting home ownership; effective resolution of complaints; empowering residents and strengthening the regulator and ensuring homes are safe and decent.

A consultation launched alongside the green paper will run until November 6.

Secretary of state for communities, James Brokenshire MP, said: “Providing quality and fair social housing is a priority for this government.

“Our green paper offers a landmark opportunity for major reform to improve fairness, quality and safety to residents living in social housing across the country.

“Regardless of whether you own your home or rent in the social sector, residents deserve security, dignity and the opportunities to build a better life.

“With 4 million households living in social housing and this projected to rise annually, it’s crucial that we tackle the issues facing both residents and landlords in social housing.”

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) described the green paper as an important contribution to critical debates around the future of social housing, but called for the new build proposals to go further.

Gavin Smart

Gavin Smart, deputy chief executive of CIH, said: “The social housing green paper makes an important contribution to the critical debate about what we think social housing is, what it does and what we want it to be in the 21st century.

“Proposals to strengthen the role of the regulator for social housing where housing providers’ services fall short of what their tenants deserve is something CIH argued for in our Rethinking Social Housing research report and it is good to see government thinking in the same way.

“We welcome the aim to tackle the stigmatisation of social housing, an issue which our report highlighted. Our Ipsos Mori public opinion polling showed that 65% of those interviewed felt that negative view of people living in social housing is unfair.

“We are also pleased to see that government plans to consult on the rules on how local authorities can use the money they receive from Right to Buy sales as well as dropping plans to force local authorities to sell their most valuable homes.

“CIH has long argued for the removal of the barriers that prevent councils playing a full part in building the new affordable homes we so badly need.

“The green paper rightly recognises the importance of new supply but we are concerned that the plans for new affordable homes are not ambitious enough. Research shows we need a minimum of 78,000 of the most affordable homes each year in 2017/18 just over 5,000 were delivered – and we estimate that between 2012 and 2020 we will have lost 230,000 of these homes in total.

“This is why we have called on government to rebalance the £53 billion funding for housing so that affordable housing gets a fairer share than the 21 per cent it has now. This is essential if we are to make sure that everyone has a decent, affordable place to call home.”

David Orr

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “Today’s long awaited launch of the social housing green paper is welcomed by housing associations. For 40 years we have failed to build anything like enough social housing. It is time the country had a proper conversation about the role and importance of social housing in ending the housing crisis.

“Our members fully share the government’s commitment to ensuring tenants get the quality services they need – and that they can hold their landlords to account if they don’t.

“We know that social housing residents like the quality of their homes, they’re concerned about the shortage of genuinely affordable homes and they feel that recent welfare reforms have caused real hardship. There must be space within the green paper consultation to address these wider concerns.

“We also know that many tenants believe the quality of services from their landlord could be improved. We know people want to feel listened to and influence the kind of services they receive. We have been leading a national conversation with our members and tenant organisations to understand where and how we can do better. Housing associations are committed to putting the people we serve at the heart of everything we do. We want to ensure this is the reality in all our homes and communities across the country.

“Without significant new investment in the building of more social housing, it is very hard to see how it can be a safety net and springboard for all the people who desperately need it. Our ambition for the Green Paper is that it sets a course for a future where everyone can access a quality home they can afford. To do that we need to build 90,000 new social rent homes every year.”

Jon Sparkes

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, added: “It’s good to see the government consulting on plans to make sure social housing tenants are fairly treated, and taking the issue of improving social housing conditions seriously – but this green paper has to go further.

“In order to solve homelessness the government must also significantly increase England’s supply of social homes, and that means setting targets for building the new social homes that are urgently needed.

“Our latest research shows that in England we need to build 90,000 homes at social rent levels every year for the next 15 years, to meet demand amongst those on the lowest incomes. That’s a far cry from the 5,000 built last year.

“The government must also address the barriers that stop many homeless people accessing social housing, such as rules that bar tenants with previous rent arrears or ask them to prove a connection to a local area.

“Homelessness has a severe impact not only on the people who experience it, but on everyone in our communities.

“No one can contribute to society or build a future for themselves without a stable home. In order for the rough sleeping strategy announced yesterday to be successful, we need to have targets for building the social homes this country needs. The government must put in place the policies that will end homelessness for good.”

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