CWAG News Update January 2020

This update includes the following: 
 
·         Housing priorities and proposed legislation
·         Fire Safety Announcements
·         CWAG Finance and Business Planning Meeting
·         Ministerial visits and new build
·         Recent Publications

 

Housing priorities and planned legislation

The Queen’s Speech opening the new session of Parliament included only brief references to housing policy; specifically highlighting support for home ownership and new measures to improve building safety. However, a review of the background briefing papers reveals more on the governments wider priorities and direction of policy affecting the sector. 

 

Fire Safety Announcements

On 20th January 2020, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced a series of measures to ensure resident safety and speed up remediation work on removal of unsafe Aluminium Composite Material (ACM). In addition to the forthcoming Fire Safety Bill, the following measures are proposed:
 
·         A new Building Safety Regulator within the Health and Safety Executive, to be established immediately as a shadow body in advance of legislation. This body will give oversight of the design, construction and occupation of high-rise buildings.
·         An intention to start naming building owners where there has been no progress or clear plan for removal and remediation of unsafe cladding.
·         Publication of consolidated safety guidance for owners of multi storey, multi occupied buildings.
·         The government also launched a consultation on the current combustible cladding ban, including proposals to lower the 18 metre height threshold to at least 11 metres.
·         Following the earlier consultation on sprinklers and other measures in new build flats, the government is proposing to lower the height threshold for sprinklers in new buildings. Details will be published in February 2020.
·         The government is also appointing a construction expert to review remediation timescales and identify measures to speed up remediation in the private sector.
·         The government is examining different funding options to alternative funding routes or mitigate costs for individuals.
   

CWAG Finance and Business Planning Meeting

On 28th January 2020 CWAG Finance Officers met to discuss current HRA finance and business planning issues with Steve Partridge from Savills. Steve is a national expert on housing finance who has provided advice and support to CWAG members through similar sessions over a number of years.
 
In what was an exceedingly full programme, topics covered included: 
·         The implications of new building safety standards, a Decent Homes 2 programme and achieving net zero carbon emissions.
·         The prospect of increased regulation and how local authority operating costs compare with those of housing associations.
·         Implications of rent regulation for local authorities
·         Right to Buy trends and what is happening to receipts
·         Removal of the debt cap and modelling future funding capacity and capability, both across the sector and within individual local authorities.
·         Development funding and modelling, including a case study 
 

Ministerial visits and new build

Officials from MHCLG have indicated that Ministers are interested in seeing first-hand the progress of council house building programmes and would welcome invitations to scheme openings and handovers.
If you have a scheme that you think would be of interest, please send brief details to the CWAG Policy Officer.
 

Recent Publications

Ombudsman Insight Report (April – September 2019)
This short report highlights good practice and lessons learned from recent complaints dealt with by the Ombudsman. The report details 4 recent case studies with different outcomes, ranging from no evidence of maladministration to early resolution and maladministration, and focuses on the lessons for landlords seeking to improve their complaints handling service.
 
Managing to Make a difference – November 2019 - NFA
This NFA report looks at housing management in the ALMO sector and aims to initiate a conversation with government about what good housing management should look like. It is based on a sector survey and in-depth case studies with 5 ALMOs - Nottingham City Homes, Poole Housing Partnership, Tower Hamlets Homes, Stockport Homes and St Leger Homes of Doncaster.
 
The report highlights that housing management is becoming more complex and difficult, due mainly to the impact of austerity policies and welfare reform. In response, ALMO housing management has evolved from being process driven to becoming more focused on residents and outcomes.
 
Local Authority New Build Programmes and Lifting the HRA Borrowing Caps - Jan 2020 - ARCH, CIH, NFA
 The report assesses the impact of the decision in Autumn 2018 to lift HRA ‘borrowing caps’ which restricted investment in new council house building. At the time, the Treasury estimated that the change would result in a local authority build programme of around 10,000 houses a year. The survey confirms that this figure is likely to be met and may possibly be exceeded. However, the it also suggests that councils could do more if other constraining factors were addressed, for example, reform of RTB and greater availability of grant funding. In addition, the report highlights that the increasing investment requirements of existing stock, particularly in relation to fire safety standards, are likely to dampen new build programmes going forward.
 
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