CWAG News Update October 2019

This update includes the following: 

 
·         CWAG Annual General Meeting
·         Housing Policy as featured during the Party Conferences
·         New Right to Shared Ownership
·         New council houses win the Stirling Architectural Prize
·         Recent Government Releases / Publications
·         Other Publications
·         Reminder on rents from the Regulator
 

CWAG Annual General Meeting

 

We were very pleased to welcome Alistair McIntosh as the keynote speaker at the recent CWAG AGM. The presentation theme ‘Where is Housing Going?’ was an opportunity to examine the increasingly complex operating environment facing the sector. There are many risks and challenges including meeting regulatory requirements, fire safety, climate change and fraud.
 
So what do councils with ALMOs need to do? Alistair’s suggestions included:
  • Develop a compliance mind set. There is a need to take day to day health and safety and associated regulatory compliance more seriously.  Organisations need to employ people who understand the safety agenda and stress testing.
 
  • Understand the true costs of fire safety and de-carbonisation to inform the wider dialogue with government and take the discussions to a more sensible place.
 
  • ALMO Reviews – these rarely deliver what they promise and can be very costly. If the council has issues with senior people in the ALMO, it is better to deal with the issue directly rather than change the model.
 
  • Councils need to be asking tough questions of their ALMOs and insisting on sound analysis and good quality information, not just hunches.
 
In the afternoon Jim Bennett from the Regulator of Social Housing outlined the role of the Regulator and how this impacts on local authorities. Specifically, where there is an ALMO, the local authority (and not the ALMO) will be held responsible for non-compliance. The Regulator was keen to emphasise that it expects local authorities to have in place adequate assurance about compliance with regulatory standards. 
 
Further details on both presentations are available in the meeting minutes along with links to download the speaker’s slides.
 

Housing Policy as featured during the Party Conferences

 

With many commentators suggesting that a General Election is likely within the next few weeks, the recent party conferences provide some interesting clues about where the various political parties stand on housing issues.  Briefing Note – giving a brief summary of the headline policies and key issues from the three recent party conferences.
 

New Right to Shared Ownership

 

The Government has issued a press release ‘Thousands more people to be given a step onto the housing ladder’ setting out plans for a new national model for shared ownership. The proposals include:
 
·         Social tenants moving into new homes will be given the chance to buy a share
·         The option of a 10% minimum initial stake will be available cut from 25%
·         Further shares available to purchase in 1% chunks
 
The Right to Shared Ownership will not apply to tenants of existing Local Authority homes. However, it will apply to new rental homes built with Affordable Homes Programme (AHP) grant under the future AHP (but not the current AHP). So it may apply to some new Local Authority rental homes (as well as Housing Association rental homes) built in future.
 
This announcement seems to confirm that that the focus of government policy is shifting back to home ownership.
 

Queens Speech

 

The Queen’s speech confirmed that the Government intends to move forward with plans for a new building safety regulator. This proposal was included in the document ’Building a safer future’ which was subject to consultation over the summer. The new regulator will oversee the building, management and maintenance of high rise buildings.
 

New council houses win the Stirling Architectural Prize

 

A new council housing scheme in Norwich is this year’s winner of the prestigious Stirling Architectural prize for the UK’s best new building.  This is a major achievement and a first for council housing, and particularly pleasing in the year that the sector is celebration 100 years since the Addison Act.
John Boughton’s article gives further details of the scheme including photos.
 

Recent Government Releases

 

 MHCLG Consultation – The Future Homes Standard: changes to part L and Part F of the building regulations  

This consultation sets out plans for the Future Homes Standard. It includes proposals to increase the energy efficiency requirements for new homes in 2020, as well as further requirement by 2025 when new homes will need to be built without fossil fuel heating systems. Changes are also proposed to the building regulations ventilation and efficiency requirements and the role of councils in delivering the best energy standards from developers.
 
This new design guide introduces a national standard for new homes and sets out a blueprint for local authorities to achieve quality and great design.
It will be followed by a National Model Design Code to be published in the New Year. Local authorities will then be expected to draw up local design codes reflecting their specific circumstances and needs. It is hoped that by addressing design and quality issues, communities will be more accepting of new development.
 
This latest annual report from the Regulator of Social Housing highlights that the strategic and operational risks facing the social housing sector are rising. In particular, it covers risks in the following areas:
·         health and safety compliance
·         stock condition and asset management
·         rents where landlord business plans need to cope with changes in housing policy and welfare reform
·         reputational risk
·         fraud, data integrity and technological risks
 The document is essential reading for councils, particularly where responsibilities in key areas may be delegated or shared.
 

Other Publications

 

 The experience and impact of stigma of living in social housing

This report by the ‘See the Person’ Campaign sets out the results of an on-line survey of people who live in social housing. Most respondents reported direct experience of negative stereotypes and stigma and that this has an impact on their lives and the lives of neighbours, family and friends.
 
 The main sources of this stigma were comments, assumptions and discriminatory attitudes experienced by those in the community and institutions. The media and politicians were also mentioned as common sources of stigma, and worryingly social housing landlords were also seen as a source.
 
The report makes a number of recommendations to Government, politicians and to those who work in the media. There are also recommendations for social landlords:
 ·      Accept that social landlords are sometimes part of the problem and become part of the solution. Stop using language about ‘turning lives around’ and statistics that perpetuate stereotypes.
·       Work with staff to develop a relationship of mutual respect with tenants and challenge where there is inappropriate language or views about tenants.
 The ‘See the Person’ campaign is developing a toolkit to help achieve the points above. Landlords are encouraged to sign up. For further details email seethepersoncampaign@gmail.com  (with the subject line Landlord Toolkit)
  
This report sets out the findings from a sector-wide review of the STAR methodology and includes information on:
·         The types of surveys that are currently being carried out
·         The survey methods currently being used
·         Information on response rates
·         What landlords are doing with the results
There are also examples of best practice and an invitation to get involved in the next stage of the review - whether or not organisations are members of HouseMark.
 

Reminder - RSH Data collection for regulation of local authority rents

 

In March this year, the Regulator of Social Housing invited local authorities to submit rental data in 2019/20 as part of a voluntary pilot scheme. There is still time to action this if your authority has not already done so. Please contact the RSH directly with any queries.
 
 
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