CWAG News Update November 2021

CWAG News Update November 2021

This update includes the following: 
·         Chancellor’s Budget and Spending Review 2021 – Headlines
·         Spotlight on Damp and Mould – It’s not Lifestyle
·         Factsheets on the Building Safety Bill
·         Recent publications
·         CWAG – Next General Meeting Details
 

Chancellor’s Budget and Spending Review - October 2021 – Headlines

Housing
The Spending Review settlement for housing was low key with little new money in the announcement. The global spending figure for housing is £24 billion for the 4-year period up to 2025/26. This includes programmes that have already been announced prior to the Spending Review including: £10 billion Affordable Homes Programme, £6 billion to boost housing supply, £3 billion for housing safety and £3 billion for Help to Buy.
 
£1.8bn of new funding was announced to unlock the delivery of 160,000 homes on brownfield sites. Of this, £300 million is earmarked for councils to help unlock smaller sites whilst the remaining £1.5 billion will be available “to regenerate underused land and deliver transport links and community facilities”. 
 
Unsafe cladding
Further details were included on the previously announced £5 billion fund to remove and replace of unsafe cladding from high rise buildings. Around £3 billion of this fund will be delivered over the spending review’s period, which will run until 2026. It was confirmed that this will be partly funded by a tax of 4% on residential property developer profits over £25 million. The government expects to recoup around £2bn from the developer tax over the next decade.
 
Overall, the funding announcement does not match the scale of the problem, covering only some cladding types in buildings over 18m. Other essential safety measures remain unfunded.
 
Rough sleeping and homelessness
The government announced £640 million per year for spending on rough sleeping and homelessness. This represents a reduction on spending levels during the pandemic but is an increase compared with 2019.
 
Decarbonisation
There was confirmation of the £800m previously announced for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (covering 3 years from 2022/23). In addition, £950 million was announced for Home Upgrade Grants for fuel-poor households and £450 million for a boiler upgrade scheme to provide grants to encourage the installation of heat pumps.
 
Local Government Funding
£4.8 billion of new grant funding for councils over the next 3 years was announced, amounting to an additional £1.6 billion in each of the next 3 years.
Councils will also be able to increase council tax by 2% per year in the next three years without the need to hold a referendum. Councils will also be able to levy an additional 1% per year to cover their social care responsibilities.
 
Planning
The government confirmed £65 million of funding for local authorities in England to create a "new digital system" to "improve the planning regime". Other proposed changes to the planning system were not mentioned.
 
Universal Credit
The taper rate in universal credit will be adjusted from 63p in the pound to 55p benefitting claimants who are working but not those who are unable to work.
 

Spotlight on Damp and Mould – It’s not Lifestyle

The latest Housing Ombudsman Report‘Spotlight on damp and mould – It’s not lifestyle’brings together the findings from an extensive review of casework relating to damp and mould as well as  responses from a call for evidence earlier this year.
 
Over the past two years, the Ombudsman has investigated 410 complaints in this area with maladministration found in 56% of cases, rising to 64% for complaint handling alone.  This failure rate was often the result of inaction, excessive delays or poor communication. 
The report highlights a general sense of frustration among residents who felt that landlords don’t take their repair reports or complaints seriously. There are clear impacts for the residents affected with distress and inconvenience reported together with concerns about health and well-being.
 
The report also recognises the challenges for landlords in tackling damp and mould issues – including overcrowding, poverty, the age and design of homes. However, landlords should avoid inferring blame on residents due to ‘lifestyle’ when it is often not solely their issue or within their control. Landlords should take responsibility for resolving problems:
“instead of seeing how the lifestyle needs to be adapted to suit the property – how can the property be adapted to suit the lifestyle.” Insight from the Call for Evidence
 
Addressing damp and mould needs to be a higher priority for landlords, with a change in culture from reactive to proactive essential to improve the experience of residents. In support of this the report makes 26 recommendations for landlords including:
  • greater use of intelligence and data to prevent issues developing and escalating 
  • adopting a clear, comprehensive and consolidated policy for dealing with damp and mould cases
  • reviewing communications with residents to improve tone 
  • improving access to complaints to resolve issues, including alongside disrepair claims, and learn from them. 
The report also proposes landlords do not close their complaints procedure prematurely if a resident commences with the pre-action protocol as the Ombudsman does not consider the use of the protocol to constitute legal proceedings. This will maximise the opportunities to resolve disputes potentially sooner through the complaints process and in a less adversarial way. 
  
All landlords are asked to consider their approach through a series of questions for senior leaders and governing bodies. The report also encourages landlord managers and staff to use the learning in the report and set out in best practice examples from across the sector as well as the real-life experiences of residents detailed in case studies from its investigations.
  
The report concludes with a warning that the Ombudsman will be monitoring landlord performance and considering whether further systemic investigations may be required in the future to address service improvements with individual landlords.
 

Factsheets on the Fire Safety Bill

The Ministry of Levelling Up Housing and Communities has published a series of topic-based factsheets to provide more information about the provisions in the Building Safety Bill and how they will be implemented. Each Factsheet provides information around the context, objectives and how the Building Safety Bill will be implemented. Further details including a list of topics covered.
 
In addition, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released 4 factsheets setting out the HSE’s early position on the regulatory approach of the Building Safety Regulator. They are intended to inform debate around the Building Safety Bill but do not form part of the legislation and have not been endorsed by Parliament. Further details
 

Recent Publications

To support the launch of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF), the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) commissioned this research to explore the attitudes of social housing providers to delivering improved energy performance, barriers to implementing new measures, and views on the new fund.
 
This independent report commissioned by the LGA, ARCH and the NFA presents a cost benefit analysis of the wide economic and social benefits that would result from building 100,00 social homes a year.
 
For further details see above
 

CWAG December General Meeting Details

The next CWAG General Meeting will be held on Wednesday 8th December 2021 (timing 9.30a.m – 11a.m.) Professor Jo Richardson current CIH Chair and Professor of Housing and Social Research at De Montfort University will be discussing Homelessness and rough sleeping and the Homeful campaign.
 

The meetings will be held over Teams. Please contact the Policy Officer for further details and the meeting link.