ARCH's primary focus continues to be to support our member
councils through this difficult time and to encourage member
councils to keep ARCH informed of any issues which they feel need
to be brought to the attention of Government through our regular
weekly teleconference updates with senior officials at the Ministry
of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) and other
sector representative bodies such as the Local Government
Association, Chartered Institute of Housing, London Councils and
the National Federation of ALMOs.
Although we have had to cancel or put on hold ARCH Board
meetings, ARCH Tenants' Group meetings and other face to face
meetings, we will continue to publish our fortnightly e-bulletin
and wherever possible continue our work digitally or over the
Liaison with MHCLG
We are holding regular weekly "catch-up" teleconferences with
MHCLG officials to share concerns and issues flagged up by our
member councils. Those "catch-up" meetings will provide an
opportunity for ARCH to raise matters on behalf of our member
councils and the sector as a whole, including:
- Urgent issues affecting or impeding the level of service
councils are able to provide to their tenants and residents.
- The impact of the virus on the long-term financial viability of
councils' housing revenue accounts.
- The impact of the virus on future supply of council
- The potential role that councils can play in stimulating the
supply of housing and wider stimulus to the national economy
following the crisis.
- The potential need to address a number of technical issues
including potential changes to legislation and associated
Following our first catch-up meeting with MHCLG officials, Government published updated guidance for
landlords and tenants on 28 March and at the latest
teleconference with MHCLG officials on 7 April several issues
flagged up by stock retained councils were discussed:
On immediate concerns MHCLG were asked to
- Need for clarity on essential/non-essential work. For reference
this is the latest
Cabinet Office guidance on Going to Work.
- Difficulties in meeting statutory timelines for processing and
determining Right to Buy applications.
- Reported increases in domestic abuse cases which is having a
knock-on effect on other services and difficulty helping people
access other services.
- Increases in requests from DWP seeking landlord confirmation of
rent increases, despite assurances from DWP that only cases outside
prescribed tolerances would need to be checked.
- Concern about an increase in homeless people without recourse
to public funds who were being housed by charities.
- The need for adequate supply of personal protective equipment
(PPE), particularly for staff working in supported housing and
staff needing to conduct home visits to self-isolating or shielding
residents for essential emergency repairs and other housing
matters. ARCH Chief Executive John Bibby recently wrote to the lead
officers at each ARCH member council asking them to complete a very
short survey on their specific need for PPE.
On cost and income pressures:
Overall it was considered too early to say exactly how income
will be affected but councils and ALMOs were beginning to raise a
number of concerns:
- Growing rent and service charge arrears which are looking
increasingly likely to become a significant issue, with concerns
that leaseholders especially may refuse to pay when service is
unable to be provided during the crisis.
- The growing cost of emergency accommodation - especially as it
is impossible to predict how long this will last.
- Void rent losses due to the slowdown in void repairs, relets
and advice to households not to move home unless essential.
- Rising cost of construction contracts, assuming that when and
where construction does resume it will be with social distancing
measures and so projects will take longer.
- Commercial rent arrears where commercial units such as shops
are held in the HRA.
- Longer term homelessness pressures.
On longer term concerns
- Need for consideration of longer-term impacts and pressures of
what delaying new construction and refurbishment works and
non-urgent repairs and gas servicing now will do to timelines for
services, the extent and size of the backlog and any additional
costs of completing construction contracts and backlogs of repairs
within reasonable timelines and the capacity of councils and the
construction sector to deliver.
- Concern about the sustainability of current homelessness
provisions, and the exit strategy for those homeless households and
rough sleepers now living in newly repurposed temporary
- Concern about an expected increase in homelessness at the end
of the eviction ban in three to nine months' time as a result of
rent arrears in the private rented sector and mortgage arrears and
the pressure this will have on local authority housing services and
demand for council housing.
Member councils will no doubt have their own Emergency Planning
and Business Continuity Plans in place and the Government is providing local authorities with
regularly updated wider advice and guidance and ARCH
Chief Executive John Bibby has written to the lead officer at each
ARCH member council to ask if, without adding any unnecessarily
bureaucracy to the work burden at this time, member councils could
keep ARCH informed of any housing issues which it is felt need to
be brought to the attention of MHCLG as they impact on councils'
landlord services, particularly if member councils have useful
information to share or action by Government is considered
Social distancing in the workplace
Following the teleconference, the Government have published
further updated advice on social distancing in the workplace for
employers published on 7th April. This
practical advice is tailored to various work scenarios. It is not
meant to be comprehensive, but it includes specific practical
guidance for tradespeople working in homes, construction, and
The Government has also published updated
guidance for employers and businesses on
Gas safety checks
Recognising the concern
among social landlords, residents and
inspectors, on 7 April 2020, the Health & Safety
Executive published further guidance setting out detailed advice
for a range of scenarios including: