On 14 August, my Department published our social housing Green Paper “A new deal for social housing” which proposes fundamental reform to ensure social homes provide an essential, safe, well managed service for all those who need it. The social housing Green Paper was laid before Parliament on 14 August (CM 9671).
Everyone deserves a decent, affordable and secure place to live. It is the most fundamental of human needs. While we have made important strides to build the homes we need in recent years, I recognise we have much further to go when it comes to making our housing market work for all parts of our society—not least for residents in social housing. Our Green Paper is an important step towards this.
It is based on conversations with almost 1,000 residents at 14 events across the country, with over 7,000 submitting their views and ideas online. We have heard what people love about social housing—stories of people’s pride in their homes and communities. But we also heard what needs to change. The Green Paper is underpinned by five principles:
Ensuring that homes are sale and decent
Residents were not only concerned about safety, but also the quality and maintenance of their homes. The Government have identified opportunities to accelerate a social sector early response to recommendations in Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of building regulations and fire safety by supporting residents and landlords to engage on issues of building safety. The Green Paper will also consider whether the decent homes standard is demanding enough and delivers the right outcomes.
Swift and effective resolution of disputes
Residents raised issues about how complaints were dealt with when things go wrong. We want to make the process of handling and resolving complaints faster, easier and more effective. As part of this, the Green Paper asks whether the “democratic filter” should be reformed or removed. In addition, we want to explore whether more could be done to strengthen mediation opportunities so landlords and residents can resolve disputes locally, and help residents to access the right advice.
We want to ensure residents are empowered, with more transparency about the information they receive from landlords. The Green Paper contains proposals to assess landlords against standards that matter to residents, to publish these assessments, and to strengthen the regulatory framework for social housing. We want to make sure the regulatory framework as a whole remains fit for purpose and published a call for evidence which seeks views on how the current regulatory framework is working, alongside the Green Paper. We are also seeking views on how to ensure residents’ voices are heard and strengthening their choice over the services they receive.
Elimination of stigma
Stigma was one of the most consistent themes raised by residents. We are seeking views on a number of proposals to tackle this including ways to celebrate thriving communities, encourage greater professionalisation among housing management staff and promoting good social housing design. We are also exploring options for improving neighbourhood management and addressing anti-social behaviour, another key issue for residents.
Boosting the supply of social housing and supporting home ownership
Residents told us that they wanted to see more affordable homes delivered. We published the right to buy receipts consultation which sets out our proposals for exploring new flexibilities around how local authorities can use their right to buy receipts. We will also explore how we can help people living in affordable home ownership schemes, such as shared ownership, progress more easily to owning outright.
After listening carefully to social housing residents, we are proposing not to implement the provisions in the Housing and Planning Act to make fixed-term tenancies mandatory for local authority tenants at this time.
We recognise the benefits of fixed-term tenancies in the right circumstances to help social landlords make best use of their housing stock and that flexibility will remain. But we remain keen to ensure that victims of domestic abuse do not risk losing their lifetime tenancy if they are granted a new tenancy after fleeing abuse. We will bring forward new legislation to ensure that councils honour their lifetime tenancy in these cases.
In addition, on 16 August, I launched the £200 million voluntary right to buy midlands pilot. The pilot will enable thousands of tenants across the midlands to buy their home from their housing association, at a discount funded by the Government. The pilot builds on the small scale pilot with five housing associations in 2016-17, and will test two key aspects of the voluntary agreement with housing associations not tested in the initial pilot—the portable discount and one-for-one replacement overall of the homes sold. Eligible tenants in the midlands will need to register their interest on the MHCLG website, with the registration open until 16 September. To give all prospective purchasers an equal chance of participating, places on the pilot will be allocated by ballot.