CWAG News Update - November 2020

CWAG News Update - November 2020

This update includes the following: 

·         Social Housing White Paper – key issues for councils with ALMOs
·         Spending Review Headlines
·         Next CWAG Event - details
·         CWAG Clienting Survey  - Reminder
·         LGA Housing Advisers Programme 2020/21 - opens for bids
·         Recent publications and government releases

Social Housing White Paper – Key issues for councils with ALMOs

The long-awaited social housing white paper - The charter for social housing residents was published last week with a focus on tenant safety, consumer protection and redress. The Regulator of Social Housing has been tasked with setting up a new consumer regulatory function which will be proactively monitor and ensure compliance with updated consumer standards.
The removal of the ‘serious detriment’ test along with the introduction of both routine and reactive inspections for all landlords with more than 1000 homes signals a new approach to consumer regulation with implications for the way councils manage the ALMO relationship and gain assurance.
The White Paper states that the changes will ‘provide the regulator with greater oversight of the performance of the local authority landlord function’ emphasising that where management has been contracted out to an ALMO or TMO, it is the local authority as landlord that is responsible for meeting the regulatory standards.
This brings a renewed focus on the client role and how the local authority gains assurance. Councils will need to demonstrate to the regulator how they know the ALMO is performing and ensure there are robust measures in place to ensure compliance with the consumer standards.
Current clienting arrangements are often fairly ‘light touch’ reflecting arrangements developed over a number of years. There may now be a shift towards more contractual compliance and the White Paper suggests councils should ‘review their contracts to ensure they do not hinder the RSH in the exercise of its powers’.
Landlords will also be required to specify a named ‘responsible person for Consumer Standards’ and a named ‘responsible person for health and safety’. It is unclear whether it will be possible to delegate these roles to the ALMO, however the likelihood is that the Regulator will follow the precedent set in the Building Safety Bill which requires the landlord to undertake the Authorised Person role directly.
The White Paper also introduces new requirements in terms of landlord transparency and accountability to tenants. The regulator is tasked with developing arrangements to collect and publish a core set of tenant satisfaction measures for all social landlords so tenants will know how their landlord in performing relative to others in the sector. Whilst operationally much of this will be delegated to the ALMO, councils will need to keep a close eye on all aspects of performance including complaints and satisfaction levels with different aspects of the services.

Spending Review 2020

This year the spending review covers only one year and focusses on managing the next phase of the pandemic. Although light on direct housing content the review includes measures that will impact on the sector.

Diary Date – CWAG Finance and Business Planning Workshop

The next CWAG event is a Finance and Business Planning Meeting that will take place via Teams.
Date: Wednesday 13th January 2021
Time – 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. based around three one-hour sessions with short breaks between sessions and a longer lunch break.
Proposed topics include:
·         HRA Business Plan Capacity
·         Building safety and de-carbonisation
·         Regulatory issues (including rents) and the White Paper
·         Delivery of newbuild programmes post-Covid19.
·         ALMO specific issues
The programme will be based around three one-hour sessions with short breaks between sessions and a longer lunch break.
Steve Partridge - Savills Director of Housing Consultancy will lead the event. To book please contact the Policy Officer.

CWAG Clienting Survey Reminder

CWAG is currently carrying out a survey which aims to gather information on current ALMO clienting arrangements and how these are developing in response to changes in the regulatory and operating environment. We will report back on the survey findings and highlight learning insights and good practice. 
Surveys are due to be returned by Friday 27th November 2020.

LGA Housing Advisers Programme 2020/21 opens for bids

The LGA has launched the 2020/21 Housing Advisers Programme (HAP) see press release for the launch. Councils can bid for up to £20,000 of funding to commission specialist advice to help them innovate in meeting the housing needs of their communities. Applications close on 7th January 2021. Further details are available here along with the prospectus and application form


Recent Publications / Government Releases

‘Building post-pandemic prosperity’ - a report by Pragmatix Advisory Limited for the LGA, ARCH and NFA - October 2020.
This report sets out the economic and fiscal case for building 100,000 new council homes each year as a catalyst for recovery. The pandemic will have a long legacy in terms of economic impacts and exacerbating pre-existing housing problems in England. Modelling suggests there could be 2m households on council waiting lists by next year, along with major dislocation in the private rented sector and unemployment rates above 10%.
Construction offers a big economic ‘bang’ for every construction ‘buck’. Building 100,000 homes for social rent would support 89,000 jobs and add £4.8 billion in gross value added to the construction sector. Investment in 100,000 council homes would yield a net present value public sector surplus of £7.8 billion over 25 years and real annual return to government of 3.8 per cent each year. 
MHCLG Guidance - Operation of the Housing Revenue Account Ring-fence - Published – 10th November 2020
This guidance restates the established policy for the HRA highlighting that there should be transparent apportionment of costs between the HRA and General Fund that is fair to both tenants and council taxpayers. The guidance includes further explanation and examples including financing of homelessness services.
MHCLG guidance for formal applications to disapply government rent policy – Published – 10th November 2020
This document sets out the arrangements for a local authority to apply to the Secretary of State for agreement to disapply the Government’s Policy Statement on Rents for Social Housing in the case of unavoidable and serious financial difficulty.  
MHCLG Technical Consultation – New model for shared ownership – Published 19th November 2020

This consultation provides a more detailed explanation of how the different elements of the new shared ownership model will work. The consultation runs for 4 weeks and closes on 17th December 2020.

Download consultation