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ARCH initial response to the Social Housing White Paper 18/11/2020 Labelled as Scrutiny, Legislation, Regulation

The Government on 17 November announced the long-awaited Social Housing White Paper entitled "The Charter for Social Housing Residents."

 

It is now nearly 3 ½ years since the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower and over 2 years since the Government published the Social Housing Green Paper and it is vital that we have a strong regulatory framework to ensure that such a tragedy and loss of life never happens again and that residents feel safe in their homes.

 

Councils have been providing housing to meet the needs of their local communities for over 100 years and over that time have provided millions of people with a home of their own in decent affordable housing but as landlords councils must play their part in ensuring that the horrific events of 14 June 2017 are never repeated.

 

We therefore welcome the expectations set out in the White Paper. It is right that every resident of council housing should have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in and be safe in their home. They should know how their landlord is performing and have any complaints dealt with promptly & fairly, be treated with respect and have their voice heard by their landlord; and, if they want to and can afford it, to be supported to move into home ownership.

 

We also welcome the introduction of stronger regulation to help ensure tenants and residents receive the services they are entitled to expect. Ultimately the ongoing Public Inquiry will determine the causes of the Grenfell fire and where responsibility lies, but in the meantime Council landlords have worked hard to learn the lessons from Grenfell and to continue to improve their housing services and we look forward to working with the Regulator of Social Housing as it consults on the introduction of the measures outlined in the White Paper.  

 

ARCH also welcomes the proposal in the White Paper to deliver a new "Empowerment Programme" for residents to help support them to engage effectively with their landlord and alongside this would like to see the Government invest in support to councils to develop centres of excellence and facilitate the sharing of innovation, best practice and learning. 

 

Councils provide homes for some 1.6million households, but the numbers of council housing has fallen dramatically from over 2.8million in 2001. We welcome the comment in the White Paper that the Government want to see councils build more homes but we are equally disappointed that in reality the White Paper contains no new proposals to reverse the decline in council housing over the last two decades. In particular, we are disappointed that the Government have not yet introduced proposals for greater flexibilities around how councils can use receipts from RTB sales to help replace the homes sold on a real one for one basis.

 

Alongside this new charter for social housing residents, now is the time to reverse the decline in council housing over the past few decades, to invest in the housing stock and to build a new generation of council housing that we can all be proud of.

 

As we have shown in the recent report "Building post-pandemic prosperity" jointly commissioned by ARCH with the LGA and NFA, every penny spent on building new social housing is an investment that has the potential to bring significant economic, fiscal and social returns. We have set out how handing councils the powers and resources to build 100,000 social homes for rent each year would not only help to reduce spiralling council housing waiting lists but would deliver a £14.5 billion boost to the post-pandemic economy.

 

On a more general point we are disappointed that the Government have not sought to continue the dialogue with the sector by formally inviting responses to the Social Housing White Paper but we look forward to working with the Regulator for Social Housing on proposals to introduce new tenant satisfaction measures and new improved consumer standards and related code of practice. 

 

The ARCH Board and ARCH Tenant Group will continue to support our member councils by promoting shared learning and engaging with tenants and residents.

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