CWAG News Update - September 2020

CWAG News Update - September 2020

This update includes the following: 

·         CWAG AGM September 2020
·         Evictions Ban Update
·         Affordable Homes Programme Launched
·         New Shared Ownership Model
·         Consultation Paper – Raising accessibility standards for new homes
·         New in the Library / Recent Publications

CWAG Annual General Meeting

Jenny Osbourne from Tpas was our AGM speaker this year, her presentation focussed on the tenant engagement challenges and opportunities of the pandemic.
Overall, the sector has responded and adapted well to the crisis; early indications are that local organisations (including ALMOs) have been better placed to respond at a community level. However, gaps have also been exposed, particularly in the way organisations engage tenants in forward planning as we move into the next phase of the pandemic.
Increased use of technology has been vital as key engagement meetings has gone digital. Changes that would previously have taken months or years to accomplish have become widely accepted. For example, tenants report that meetings are more focused, speedier and more accountable. However, these changes have brought into sharper focus the engagement challenge for the many tenants with no digital access.
Jenny concluded her presentation with the launch of the CWAG Tenant Engagement Toolkit which Tpas has produced for the group. The toolkit consists of a series of easy to follow checklists to assist councils improve performance on tenant engagement, where this has been delegated to the ALMO.
Presentation slides and meeting minutes are available here.

Evictions Ban Update

The stay on possession proceedings in England came to an end on 20th September 2020.
A Statutory Instrument requires landlords to give 6 months’ notice of possessions, except in cases involving ASB, riot and fraud. Also, where rent arrears are greater than 6 months, a 4-week notice period will apply.
In addition, Eviction Orders will not be enforced during any local lockdowns or over the Christmas period (defined as between 11 December 2020 and 11 January 2021).
MHCLG has published guidance for landlords and tenants in the social and private rented sectors to explain the possession action process in the county courts. The guidance Covid19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities has also been updated.
The judiciary has set out arrangements on case prioritisation which the Master of the Rolls has asked judges to have regard to when listing possession cases in the county court. This information is contained in a statement issued by the Master of the Rolls.

Affordable Homes Programme (AHP) Launched

On the 8 September, the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced the launch of a new £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme to be delivered over 5 years from 2021 to 2026.
·         The programme aims to deliver 180,000 new homes across England.
·         Half the programme is being made available for home ownership, mostly on a new version of shared ownership – see later. There will also be funding for a First Homes pilot.
·         Homes England will be allocated £7.4 billion for housing outside London - a funding increase of over £2 billion reflecting the Government levelling up agenda.
·         The Greater London Authority has been offered £4 billion.
·         10% of the funding for social or affordable rent will be for supported housing.
·         No specific targets have been set for the funding split between affordable and social rent.
·         In a change from current arrangements, it will be possible to secure grant funding for social rent schemes in areas that are not defined as higher affordability pressure areas. However, the higher grant rate for social rent will only be available in areas of higher affordability pressure.
·         Local authorities can bid for AHP funding to support their development programmes however there has been no change in the rules around combining capital receipts with AHP funding.

 New Shared Ownership Model

Home ownership remains the key priority of the new ADP Programme and a new shared ownership model is being introduced.
Key Features:
·         Minimum 10% purchase stake (currently 25%)
·         Staircasing will allow purchase of 1% additional shares
·         10-year period when shared owner will not be liable for major repairs
·         The Right to Shared Ownership will be a condition of most new housing association rental homes built as part of the programme.
·         The Right to Shared Ownership will not apply to councils.

Consultation paper - Raising accessibility standards for new homes

The Government has issued a consultation document seeking views on how to raise accessibility standards on new housing, recognising the importance of suitable homes for older and disabled people. The consultation considers how the existing optional accessible and adaptable standard for homes and the wheelchair user standard are used and whether government should mandate a higher standard or reconsider the way the existing optional standards are used.
Consultation closes 1st December 2020

Recent Publications / New in the Library

This report from the Regulator of Social Housing sets out details and lessons learned from 15 recent cases where the Regulator found a breach of the standards and serious detriment, including 7 findings against local authorities.
Two of the cases involving local authorities that have contracted out their management service to an ALMO and highlight that responsibility to ensure compliance with consumer standards cannot be contracted out. Local authority councillors need to ensure arrangements are in place to deliver compliant outcomes and take appropriate action where they do not have such assurance.
This report brings together insights from almost 2000 leaseholder and shared ownership complaints received by the Housing Ombudsman during the past 2 years resulting in 800 formal investigations. Complaints handling by organisations is highlighted as a particular concern with maladministration (including partial maladministration) in this area being found in 72% of cases. The report also identifies 12 landlords (6 councils and 6 housing associations with the highest number of maladministration findings.
The Commission, chaired by Lord Best, published a new report calling for a £1.3bn fund to buy up private housing for social rent. The report argues that the fund would head off an anticipated downturn in the housing market and would be a cost-effective way of boosting housing supply whilst delivering wider benefits, welfare savings and providing an economic stimulus to boost jobs.

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