Social Housing Green Paper introduces League Tables and “springboard” to ownership
By Kasia Banas, Consultant
Following months of delays and anticipation, a ‘new deal’ for social housing residents has been launched by the Secretary of State for Communities, James Brokenshire. But despite a raft of new Ministers working on the plan and promises from former Communities Secretary Sajid Javid that the paper would deliver “more of the right homes built in the right places”, the announcements in today’s paper have fallen somewhat flat with housing associations.
Launching the paper yesterday, James Brokenshire said that “Providing high quality and well managed social housing is a core priority for this government”, and that the “green paper offers a landmark opportunity for major reform to improve fairness, quality and safety for residents living in social housing across the country.”
Key proposals in the green paper include
- A league table for Housing Associations, with performance indicators ranking how well they handle repairs and complaints.
- A shared ownership scheme that would allow tenants to buy as little as 1% of their property each year
- Measures to make the complaints process more efficient and give tenants more tools in dispute resolution and compensation seeking, such as new mediation opportunities
- New powers for the Regulator of Social Housing to ensure quality and good management of social homes
- Dropping the proposals to introduce fixed term tenancies and letting councils “to continue to have choice” over their use of them
In their efforts to support more people into home ownership, the government is proposing a policy that would allow new buyers of shared ownership homes to staircase up their ownership in purchases of just 1% of their home each year.
This commitment may however be slightly at odds with the government’s objective of addressing social housing stigma, as it could be seen to reinforce the perception of home ownership being superior to living in social housing. The new shared ownership scheme could also be the first step in the government’s move away from the ‘voluntary right to buy’ proposals, on which there continues to be a deafening silence.
Elsewhere the Social Housing Green Paper scrapped plans to make councils sell off their highest value homes, as well as removing Lifetime Tenancies for social tenants. It is also proposing raising the housing borrowing cap for local authorities and reforming Right to Buy receipts, so they can be held for longer than the current three years and used alongside the borrowing cap increase.
Reception from the sector
The sector was quick to react to the announcements, with David Orr at the National Housing Federation endorsing the government’s proposals, while others including Shelter and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have been less flattering. The lack of any actual commitments to new funding for affordable homes, or a target on how many new homes are needed, have been the main criticisms leveled at the government today.
Despite the government’s refusal to commit to build more affordable homes, the need for them is apparent than ever. More than 66,000 council homes have been sold under the Right to Buy scheme since 2012, while just 17,911 replacements have been started or acquired, according to Local Government Association statistics.
Cllr Judith Blake, Local Government Association Housing spokesperson, said: “This green paper is a step towards delivering more social homes but it is only a small step, compared with the huge and immediate need for more genuinely affordable homes.”
The publication seems to suggest that priority has been given to stronger resident involvement, protection for tenants and tackling stigma over increasing supply of low-cost rented homes. It is quite a departure from the paper’s initial objective, outlined by then Housing Secretary Sajid Javid, who said that central to the paper would be finding a solution to getting “more of the right homes built in the right places”. This is likely to be a result of the many personnel reshuffles in the Ministry since the announcement of the green paper in September last year.
The release of the green paper starts a consultation process on the proposals that will run until 6 November 2018. In addition, another consultation has been launched into how councils spend the money from Right to Buy sales to boost council housing numbers, with proposals to simplify the process councils undergo to replace properties sold under Right to Buy and build the affordable homes their communities.