CWAG News Update March 2021

CWAG News Update March 2021

This update includes the following: 

·         RTB Receipts Consultation Response
·         CWAG Decarbonisation Meeting
·         Complaints Update
·         Smart Clienting Project
·         Recent Publications

RTB Receipts Consultation Response

The long-awaited government response to its consultation on the use of Right to Buy receipts was announced on 20th March 2021, nearly two and a half years after the consultation closed. The new measures include:
·         Extension of the timeframe available to local authorities to spend new and existing Right to Buy receipts from 3 years to 5 years, applicable from 1 April 2021. There will also be a change to annual rather than quarterly returns and accounting.
          These measures will allow councils to plan more effectively and use receipts on larger more complex projects with longer lead in times.
·         An increase in the cap on the percentage cost of new homes that councils can fund from Right to Buy receipts from 30% to 40% per home. This aims to make it easier for local authorities to fund replacement homes, particularly those for social
·         Allowing receipts to be used for shared ownership and First Homes as well as affordable and social housing for rent.
·         The introduction of a cap on the use of Right to Buy receipts for acquisitions. This measure is intended to ensure that RTB receipts are used to deliver new housing supply rather than for the purchase of existing stock or properties built by
          developers. Councils will still be able to use the first 20 units of delivery each year for existing acquisitions and will not be prevented from acquiring further existing properties above the cap using other resources.  
The government also pushed back on other proposals in the consultation, for example, deciding not to make any changes to rules around interest payments on unused receipts. A proposal to allow councils to transfer receipts to ALMOs or other council housing companies to fund development was also rejected.

CWAG Decarbonisation Meeting – 16th March 2021

This meeting was an opportunity to take stock of the decarbonisation challenge facing councils and catch up on some of the current initiatives in this area. The two case studies from CWAG members (Nottingham CC and Manchester CC) covered different scheme types and funding routes and set out some of the challenges involved in delivering retrofit programmes in existing stock.
John Kiely from Savills set out the key question facing council - What standard are we aiming for? Is it achieving net zero by a particular date? or improving energy efficiency and focussing on EPC ratings to address fuel poverty?
Most schemes involve better insulation and the removal of fossil fuel heating, however the move away from gas involves a greater dependence on electricity which is more expensive and will not necessarily achieve zero carbon, so there is a need to address energy efficiency to reduce overall energy use, control costs and tackle fuel poverty.
Every landlord’s housing stock is different, and the decarbonisation response will depend on dwelling types, construction and age. Council stock is already aging and the investment requirements around decarbonisation require a 60 - 70 year payback period. Landlords will therefore need to actively categorise their stock as some properties will not be worth investing in.
Current estimates suggest that the total bill for the social sector (4.3 million homes) is around £100 billion, to achieve an average 80% reduction in CO2. This is based on an average cost per dwelling of between £25k and £30k, although costs vary widely between individual properties. A flexible approach will be required with more limited investment in some older stock to achieve some level of decarbonisation at a reasonable cost for a more limited life.
In terms of funding, aside from the £3.8 bn Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) over the next 10 years, there is little extra money available. After taking this and existing business planning resources into account there will be a funding gap. A range of funding models and initiatives are being considered but these have limitations and will not achieve the level of investment required.

In summary councils currently need to:

·         Choose the most effective decarbonisation measures and focus investment on the right stock.
·         Understand the funding gap within the stock and be prepared to apply different solutions to different stock.
·         Pilot different approaches and funding routes (and apply for funding initiatives when available).
·         As a sector engage with government around access to a workable future funding model.
·         Ensure joined up delivery and procurement strategies so investment is not wasted.
·         Work to address current limitations in contracting capacity and supply chains in this sector.
Copies of the presentations from this event are available the CWAG website.
Please use the CWAG Forum to continue the discussion around the decarbonisation agenda.

Complaints Update

The Social Housing White Paper included a commitment to ensuring that social housing residents should get swift and fair resolution of complaints. In the past month there have been two separate initiatives linked to this:
The government campaign ‘Social Housing Complaints – Make Things Right’ launched on 5th March 2021 aims to help residents raise complaints if they are unhappy with their landlord and struggling to get problems resolved.
The campaign is running adverts on digital and social media channels, as well as music streaming sites, to raise awareness of the complaints process and barriers to these being progressed. In addition, the campaign website provides practical advice, letter templates and videos explaining how to navigate the landlord and Ombudsman complaints process.
Also, this month, the Housing Ombudsman introduced a new policy to publish all decisions on investigated cases as a step towards greater transparency, accountability and to demonstrate the role of complaints as a tool for learning and improvement. Decisions will be published three months after the decision date at fortnightly intervals. Link

Smart Clienting Project

As highlighted in last month’s update, CWAG and the National Federation of ALMOs have begun a joint piece of work on clienting in the council ALMO sector.
The project aims to set out a range of good practice and workable options for getting the most out of the council /ALMO partnership whilst delivering assurance and regulatory compliance, taking into account the implications arising from changes to the regulatory regime.
We are keen to ensure the involvement of as many CWAG members as possible and would like to identify a group of CWAG members with an interest in this area to operate as an advisory group as the project progresses. If you would be interested in taking part, please contact the Policy Officer.
A copy of the brief for the project is available here.

Recent Publications

The Social Sector (Building Safety) Engagement Best Practice Group: Final Report

 This Group brought together social landlords and resident from across the country, to consider how residents could be at the heart of engagement on fire and building safety matters. The resulting independent report looks at a series of practical pilots, testing specific approaches in different areas, organisations and contexts. The outcomes are intended not only to benefit residents and landlords in the social sector but also to be applied more widely across other tenures.