CWAG News Update August 2021

CWAG News Update August 2021

This update includes the following:  

  • CWAG Organisational Update
  • Building Safety Bill
  • Latest NFA / ARCH Welfare Reform Survey
  • CWAG Annual General Meeting - 28th September 2021
  • Recent Government releases / New in the library

 

CWAG Organisational Update

Manchester City Council has acted as the lead authority for CWAG since 2014. However, on 5th July 2021 Manchester City Council transferred ALMO staff and functions back ‘in house’ and consequently the Authority is now withdrawing from its membership and functions within CWAG. Work is in progress to transfer the lead authority role to Nottingham City Council and this process should be completed shortly. A full update will be given at the AGM on 28th September 2021.
 

Building Safety Bill 

The Building Safety Bill, formally introduced to the House of Commons on 5th July 2021, has now reached the Committee stage having received its Second Reading on 21st July 2021. See Building Safety Bill Factsheet
 
The Bill was published in draft form last year to allow pre-legislative consultation and scrutiny by the Housing Communities and Local Government Select Committee (HCLGC). 
 
The Committee criticised the lack of clarity in the draft Bill as this would require significant amounts of secondary legislation once the Bill became law. In response, the government has agreed to include as much detail as possible in the updated Bill, whilst maintaining delegated powers to respond to emerging fire safety risks through secondary legislation. Other issues, highlighted by the Select Committee that remain unresolved are highlighted in the letter from Clive Betts, Select Committee Chair, to  the Minister Building Safety, Fire and Communities.
 
The following issues are likely to generate considerable debate as the Bill passes through Parliament:  
  • The question of who should pay for historic building safety remediation work remains extremely controversial. Whilst the government has made some funding available to deal with dangerous ACM cladding in buildings over 18m, there is no funding available for non-cladding related building safety issues. The Bill requires Accountable Persons to seek alternative sources of funding before imposing remediation costs on leaseholders. In practice this means leaseholders still face the possibility of uncapped charges to cover remedial works.

 

  • The Bill defines higher risk buildings as those over 18 meters or six storeys in height, this is seen by many as an overly simplistic approach aimed at limiting the number of buildings within scope of the new Building Safety Regulator and the HCLG Select Committee has called for the Government to set a clear timetable for extending the scope of the Bill.

 

  • There are outstanding technical issues around product testing regulations and the Construction Product Regulations, in particular the lack of effective redress when products are mis-sold or fail.

 

  • On-going skills shortages and difficulties experienced by industry experts around obtaining Professional Indemnity insurance have the potential to undermine the implementation of the legislation

 

  • It is argued that retaining competition within the building control system, which effectively allows developers to choose their own regulator, will leave in place a key factor in the current crisis. 
For more information on key issues for councils - see the LGA Briefing on the second reading of the Building Safety Bill 
 

Latest NFA / ARCH Welfare Reform Survey

ARCH and the NFA have been carrying out regular surveys on the impact of welfare reform and Universal Credit over the past 6 years. This latest annual survey Heads above Water – How council tenants and landlords have fared in the pandemic  provides an insight into how the council housing sector has performed during the pandemic as well as drawing some interesting comparisons with the very different outcomes playing out in the private rented sector.
 
Whilst the pandemic has clearly had a severe impact on tenants, the survey highlights the positive impact of massive levels of support provided by councils and ALMOs, particularly during the first few months of the pandemic. This support in conjunction with other initiatives, including furlough and the £20 increase in UC payments, has so far succeeded in limiting the build-up of household arrears that many had predicted. Debt levels in local authority and ALMO households have remained broadly in line with pre-pandemic figures. This contrasts with the private rented sector where both renters and landlords face an increasingly precarious outlook.
 
The report makes 5 Asks of government:
  • Remove the five-week wait for the first Universal Credit payment. 
  • Retain the £20 uplift to Universal Credit
  • Remove the benefit cap and under-occupancy penalty.
  • Support social housing landlords in their role of providing employment and training services. 
  • Build at least 90,000 - 100,000 new socially rented homes a year to widen access to genuinely affordable homes.

 

CWAG Annual General Meeting – 22nd September 2021

The Group’s AGM will take place this year on Tuesday 22nd September 2021 – please make a note of the date. Further details will be circulated shortly.
 

Recent Government Releases 

Published 21st July 2021
This statement by 4 independent sector experts concludes that there is no systematic risk to blocks of flats / buildings below 18 meters. This aims to unblock the logjam that has developed around the EWS1 form and mortgage applications.

 

Published 21st July 2021
This report provides greater clarity on the golden thread policy and the changes it will require of the industry in terms of the information that allows you to understand a building and the steps needed to keep both the building and people safe, both now and in the future.

 

Published 19th July 2021
This online resource clarifies the roles of the agencies responsible for tackling anti-social behaviour and the help and support available for tenants.

 

New in the Library