Social Housing (Regulation) Bill, Second Reading, House of Commons, 7 November 2022 

We welcome proposals that will strengthen the role of the Social Housing Regulator to increase the rights of tenants and enable tenants to better hold their landlord to account on consumer issues.


Key messages

  • Councils are determined that all tenants should have the security of a safe and well-maintained home with any issues quickly and satisfactorily addressed. The majority of social housing landlords are responsible and provide high-quality homes for people to live in.
  • We welcome proposals that will strengthen the role of the Social Housing Regulator to increase the rights of tenants and enable tenants to better hold their landlord to account on consumer issues. It will be important that any new requirements or responsibilities for councils align with proposals being brought forward in both the Fire Safety Act and the Building Safety Act and are fully funded.
  • The LGA continues to support councils to improve their housing management services and engagement with tenants through the delivery of a social housing management peer challenge and promotion of best practice as part of our sector-led improvement offer.
  • We will want to work with the Government and the Regulator to ensure that there is a proportionate, risk-based approach to inspection, as well as urgent clarity on how this will be delivered and funded. A sector-led improvement approach, through use of peer reviews and performance benchmarking, could provide a complementary or even an alternative approach to inspection.
  • Further clarity would be welcomed on the proposal to enable the Regulator to act more quickly and act where it has concerns about the decency of a home. Social housing landlords should be allowed to and supported to manage their own journey on continuous improvement, with the Regulator’s activity prioritising intervention with landlords that are experiencing the most severe challenges. This approach would make best use of limited resources for both council landlords and the Regulator.
  • We would welcome the publication of guidance on the Regulator’s requirements and timescales for preparing and implementing Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) and expect this measure to be used prior to the use of punitive measures by the Regulator to give non-compliant landlords the opportunity to improve their performance.
  • We would like to better understand the reporting mechanisms in place, which will act as the link between the lead and the Regulator on health and safety issues, and expect the Government to make sufficient new burdens funding available to enable councils to implement this new duty.
  • The LGA’s submission to HM Treasury ahead of the Autumn Statement on 17 November makes the case to Government for a radical reinvestment in local and combined authorities that enables councils to turbo-charge local growth and create preventative public services that save money and improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our society, including social housing tenants.
  • At present, there is a £5,000 cap on fines that the Regulator can impose on social landlords. The Government must carefully consider the implications of removing the cap. Fines on council landlords would in effect end up being paid for, at least in part, out of tenants’ rents, to the detriment of local service provision – they should only be used as a last resort.
  • We would like to see the Bill amended to remove all clauses relating to the sale of vacant higher value local authority housing in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Clauses 69-79). This will implement the Government’s commitment to not take forward the powers to require councils to sell higher value council homes outlined in the Social Housing Green Paper.
  • The LGA is pleased with the Minister’s assurances in the House of Lords that the Advisory Panel will deliver broad representation, seek diverse views and reflect issues among local authorities across the country.
  • We are also pleased with the Government’s amendments to the Bill which ensure occupiers of premises are given a longer period of time (48 hours’ notice rather than 24 hours) of the first exercise of the power to enter to carry out a survey; which provide important clarity to registered providers of social housing on the proposed inspection regime; provide helpful clarification on a tenant’s rights to receive notice ahead of remedial action being taken.

LGA submission: Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

The LGA’s submission to HM Treasury ahead of the Autumn Statement on 17 November makes the case to Government for a radical reinvestment in local and combined authorities that enables councils to turbo-charge local growth and create preventative public services that save money and improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our society.

Our key recommendations on housing are below:

  • There are currently 1,188,762 people on council housing waiting lists. Research for the LGA and partners has found that investment in a new generation of social housing could return £320 billion to the nation over 50 years. It also found that every £1 invested in a new social home generates £2.84 in the wider economy with every new social home generating a saving of £780 a year in housing benefit.
  • More than 1.1 million homes granted planning permission in England in the last decade are yet to be built, with 9 in 10 planning applications being approved by councils. To speed up delivery, the Government should give councils powers to incentivise developers to build housing more quickly. For example, to charge developers full council tax for every unbuilt development from the point the original planning permission expires; it should also be easier for councils to use their compulsory purchase powers to acquire stalled housing sites or sites where developers do not build out to agreed timescales.
  • The Government should bring forward investment in the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, rather than phasing it over 10 years, and allow councils to use the Social Housing Decarbonisation Grant to be used as flexibly as they like to reduce emissions.
  • The Government should support councils to develop strategies that link public investment in retrofitting social homes to local efforts to build supply chains and green skills to pump-prime market growth.

Social housing rent cap consultation

On 31 August the Government launched a consultation inviting views from social housing tenants and landlords on a proposed rent cap in response to the rising cost of living. Under the proposals, a cap on social housing rent increases would be put in place for the coming financial year, with options at 3 per cent, 5 per cent and 7 per cent being considered.

Councils are rightly very concerned about the impact that rising living costs are having on social housing residents across the country. With that in mind, councils had already been considering their approach to next year’s rents to ensure that a careful balance is made between affordability for tenants and investment in the homes that they live in.

However, as outlined in our response to the consultation, decisions on the level of rent increases need to continue to be made by councils within the existing government rent policy commitment of CPI +1 per cent limit. This will ensure that the variation in cost pressures for different local authorities can be taken into account at a local level and councils can determine the minimum rent increase necessary to meet committed expenditure requirements and essential and urgent new works, whilst balancing this with affordability for tenants. Analysis by Savills on behalf of the LGA has estimated that capping social rent increases by 5 per cent would cost councils more than £3 billion over 5 years and £45 billion over 45 years.

Contact

Jo Allchurch, Senior Adviser

Email: jo.allchurch@local.gov.uk