First announced in September 2017 by
former Secretary of State Sajid Javid and initially promised by the
spring of 2018 and then before the Parliamentary Recess on 24 July,
the long awaited Social Housing Green Paper was finally published
on 14 August.
When first announced, Sajid Javid promised that it "would be the
most substantial report of its kind for a generation" based on "a
wide-ranging, top-to-bottom review of the issues facing the sector"
but in many respects the Green Paper poses more questions than
answers - 48 questions to be precise.
Billed as a "new deal" for social housing, the Green Paper sets
out five principles which, it says, will underpin a new, fairer
deal for social housing residents:
- A safe and decent home which is fundamental to a sense of
security and our ability to get on in life;
- Improving and speeding up how complaints are resolved;
- Empowering residents and ensuring their voices are heard so
that landlords are held to account;
- Tackling stigma and celebrating thriving communities,
challenging the stereotypes that exist about residents and their
- Building the social homes that we need and ensuring that those
homes can act as a springboard to home ownership.
Some of the highlights in the Green Paper include:
- An announcement that the Government does not intend to
implement the Higher Value Assets Levy and forced sale of higher
value council housing proposed under the Housing & Planning Act
2016 and a promise to repeal the relevant legislation when
Parliamentary time allows.
- An announcement that the Government do not propose to implement
the mandatory fixed-term tenancies provisions of the Housing and
Planning Act 2016 "at this time"; but this wording suggests that
they may not be repealed.
- A strengthening of the role of the Social Housing Regulator and
proposals for a set of performance indicators which would be
reported to the Social Housing Regulator, who would publish them in
a set of league tables.
- The canvassing of views on several proposals for reform of
arrangements for handling residents' complaints, including
statutory requirements on local authority complaints schemes,
scrapping or shortening the waiting period before a complaint can
be referred to the Housing Ombudsman, training for "designated
persons", and raising residents' awareness of how to make and
- A commitment to tackling the stigma attached to social housing,
and proposals for a "best neighbourhood" competition and steps to
improve the customer service and neighbourhood management provided
by all social landlords.
- The potential re-introduction of stock transfer for council
housing to "community led" housing associations, reform of the
Right to Manage arrangements, or other measures, in giving tenants
more choice and control over the services they receive.
- A question as to whether the Decent Homes Standard needs to be
revised or updated in the light of Grenfell and other developments
- The potential introduction of debt funding and longer term
"strategic partnerships" to help housing associations develop
- The further promotion of shared ownership by allowing tenants
to purchase as little as 1% share in their home.
Conspicuous by its absence is any proposal for further lifting
of Housing Revenue Account debt caps, to allow councils to borrow
prudentially against their assets and future rental income streams,
to fund further investment in the existing stock of council housing
and the building of new council housing. Although the publication
alongside the Green Paper of a consultation paper on potential greater
flexibilities in the use of Right to Buy receipts is to
There is however an opportunity for local authorities to make
the case for the further lifting of HRA debt caps in that the Green
Paper poses the question: "Recognising the need for fiscal
responsibility, this Green Paper seeks views on whether the
Government's current arrangements strike the right balance between
providing grant funding for housing associations and Housing
Revenue Account borrowing for local authorities?."
The Social Housing Green Paper includes a set of 48 specific
questions on the themes covered in the Green Paper and invites
responses to be submitted by 6 November 2018.
Copies of the Social Housing Green Paper are available to
download from the Government website and the ARCH
Executive Board will be considering the Green Paper at its next
Board meeting on 10 September and will be preparing a formal
response to the Green Paper in due course.
In the meantime ARCH Policy Adviser Matthew Warburton has
produced a detailed ARCH briefing paper for ARCH members
and ARCH member councils are invited to submit any initial comments
and responses to the Green Paper to ARCH Chief Executive John Bibby
We are also delighted to advise that Jane Everton, Deputy
Director at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local
Government and the lead official on the Housing Green Paper has
accepted an invitation to speak at the ARCH Tenants Conference on 18 September
Responding to the publication of the Social Housing Green Paper,
ARCH Chief Executive John Bibby commented:
"ARCHwelcomes the general thrust of the Social Housing Green
Paper but we feel the Government could and should have gone further
in committing resources to substantially increase the supply of
social rented housing by recognising the significant role that the
provision of new council housing could play in increasing
A strengthening of the social housing regulators role is what
most tenants would expect to see following the Grenfell tragedy and
it is right and proper that landlords should account to their
tenants for their performance, but we have some concerns that
"league tables" may oversimplify matters and not give the full
picture and look forward to further dialogue with the Housing
Ministry on the performance measures proposed.
We very much welcome the decision to abandon the proposed High
Value Asset Levy and the forced sale of higher value social housing
and think it is right that the introduction of fixed term tenancies
should continue to be a matter for local discretion - these are
matters we have been campaigning on for some time.
Longer term partnerships and debt guarantees for housing
associations are mooted in the Green Paper, but we are disappointed
that the Government has missed the opportunity to underpin the
promise of "a new generation of council housing" by proposing a
general raising of housing revenue account debt caps and
recommitting to the principles of the HRA self-financing
We welcome the consultation on greater flexibilities in the use
of RTB receipts, which was first announced on 29 March this year,
but even with maximum flexibilities it must be recognised that with
the huge RTB discounts on offer, most councils will be hard pressed
to do any more than deliver one for one replacement of council
housing sold under the Right to Buy.
We are also surprised and concerned that council housing appears
to have been singled out for a potential new stock transfer
programme to new "community led" housing associations. If community
ownership and management is to form part of the answer, then the
opportunity should be open to tenants of all social landlords,
including private registered providers.
Nevertheless, the Social Housing Green Paper provides an
opportunity for ARCH to make the case for council housing and we
look forward to contributing to the debate about the future of
social housing and to continuing the dialogue we have established
with the Housing Ministry and responding to the Green Paper in due