CWAG News Update May 2022

CWAG News Update May 2022

This update includes the following: 

·         Queen’s Speech 2022 – Housing Issues
·         Complaints about repairs and tackling disrepair claims
·         Government changes stance on PEEPs
·         Showcasing Good Examples of Council Housing
·         Diary Date – Next CWAG Meeting
·         Recent Publications
 

Queen’s Speech 2022 – Housing Issues

On 10th May 2022 the Queen’s Speech, delivered this year by Prince Charles, set out government priorities for the next Parliamentary session, including the following legislative proposals with implications for the housing sector:
 
Renters Reform Bill
The government confirmed its intention to publish a White Paper setting out proposals for ‘landmark reform of the private rented sector.’ Measures include:
·         The abolition of so called ‘no fault evictions’ is to be set alongside stronger grounds for possession where there are repeated rent arrears. Also, reduced notice periods will apply in cases of anti-social behaviour.
·         A new decent homes standard that will be legally binding for the first time in the private rented sector.
·         A new Ombudsman for the private rented sector is to be set up to help resolve disputes and develop a new property portal to give tenants information enabling them to hold their landlord to account.
 
Social Housing Regulation Bill
This long-anticipated legislation will take forward proposals from the Social Housing White Paper, strengthening Consumer Regulation and the powers of the Regulator of Social Housing. The Bill is expected to be based on draft clauses published in March this year.
 
Levelling up and Regeneration Bill
This Bill, published on 11 May 2022, takes forward proposals in the Levelling Up White Paper and includes measures with implications for planning reform and housing delivery.
·         The Bill aims to improve the planning system and give communities a louder voice in development decisions in their area. The premise being that making sure developments are “beautiful, green and accompanied by new infrastructure and affordable housing” will help address concerns over development and reduce opposition.
·         Proposals in the Bill include the introduction of a locally determined levy to capture more of the financial value created by new development which can then be used to deliver new infrastructure and facilities for the benefit of local communities.
·         The Bill sets out proposals for enhanced powers for local authorities to address the problem of long-term empty shops and underused second homes.
·         In addition, there are proposals to create a new model of combined authority allowing authorities to bring forward proposals for countywide authorities that would have the critical mass to support directly elected leadership and governance models with access to devolution deals.
 

Complaints about Repairs and Tackling Disrepair Claims

The CWAG General Meeting on 19th May 2022 focussed on complaints handling and tackling the rising number of Housing Disrepair Claims.
 
Rebecca Reed from the Housing Ombudsman Service discussed the learning for landlords from the damp and mould Spotlight Report ‘It’s not lifestyle.’ Rebecca stressed the importance of Board oversight and Governance in establishing a positive organisational culture on complaints and driving the proactive and responsive approach that will help reduce disrepair claims. Landlords were encouraged to ‘find your silence’ that is those tenants who are not raising issues or using established complaints arrangements.
 
A case study from South Tyneside Council and ALMO highlighted the importance of joint working to address the problem of disrepair claims. This practical presentation provided an insight into how this problem has evolved and the practical measures needed in response. South Tyneside has a robust approach strongly contesting every claim and therefore potentially making the council a less attractive target to the so called ‘claims farmers’. Measures include staff awareness training throughout the ALMO, a focus on acting quickly to respond to and document all issues and actions as well as employing technical surveying expertise in house. The council also uses a private legal firm to fight cases and employs a specialist cost lawyer to negotiate costs – whilst this is expensive it sends the message to claims firms that they may not achieve the settlements they hope and adds to the disincentive to target the area.
 
Presentation slides and meeting notes are available on the CWAG website - link
 

Government Changes Stance on PEEPs

On 18th May 2022 the Government published its formal response to the Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPS) consultation for high rise residential buildings. This consultation involved proposals to implement the recommendations from Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Enquiry Report to make it a legal requirement for Responsible Persons to prepare evacuation plans for all residents unable to vacate the building independently in an emergency.
 
Despite most responses being in favour of the PEEPs proposals, significant concerns were flagged up in three areas – practicality, proportionality and safety.
The Government has now published revised proposals in the Emergency Evacuation Information Sharing (EEIS) consultation which revert to reliance on ‘staying put’ where the building is considered safe to do so. Where buildings are known to have fire safety problems, the fire service would have access to relevant information about vulnerable residents requiring evacuation assistance.
The EEIS consultation closes on 10th August 2022.
 

Showcasing Good Examples of Council Housing

As part of current its council housing campaigning work, the Local Government Association (LGA) is keen to highlight how building more council housing is vital to achieving the government's 300,000 homes a year target. The LGA is looking for case study examples to support this campaign. In particular, the LGA is inviting councils to send in case studies demonstrating the challenges and benefits involved in new council house building, for example how council housing is:
 
  • improving local residents' health and wellbeing
  • connecting communities and cater for their needs
  • being more climate friendly
  • improving the surrounding environment
  • improving local job prospects
  • improving the local economy
  • giving people a safe, secure place to call home
 
In addition to newbuild examples, case studies showing how councils are adapting existing housing stock to meet the needs of their residents would also be helpful. The aim is to show the best examples of council housing from across the country.
Case studies will be hosted on the LGA website and social media channels and in national media stories.
Case studies can be submitted online here.
For more information or to submit your case studies direct, please email ben.murray@local.gov.uk.
 

Diary Date – Fire and Building Safety Briefing  

The next CWAG General Meeting will be held on Wednesday 6th July 2022 (10a.m. – 12 o’clock). This will be a briefing on Fire and Building Safety issues. We are currently arranging the programme to include speakers from the LGA, Home Office and National Fire Chiefs Council. The meeting will be held over Teams. To book a place, please contact the Policy Officer.
 

Recent Publications

Tenant Voice – How ALMOs listen to tenants and deliver good customer services
The latest briefing published by the National Federation of ALMOs brings together case studies highlighting the work ALMOs have been doing to ensure tenants are listened to and respected. The report sets out examples demonstrating how involving residents and sharing decision making are key to driving cultural and organisational improvement, ensuring organisations are focussed on the priorities and quality services that residents really need and want. Download a copy of the publication here.
 
NFA Annual Survey
The National Federation of ALMOs has published its Annual Members Survey ‘Building Homes, Supporting Communities’ which this year highlights the impact of increasing pressure on the HRA from a combination of  building safety works, net zero targets and affordable housebuilding. Many ALMOs are having to review newbuild plans with problems exacerbated by the lack of a long-term rent settlement and the limitations of current retrofit funding programmes. The report also provides an update on the wide range of community support activities currently undertaken by ALMOs.
 
Regulator of Social Housing and Housing Ombudsman Service: Factsheet
This Factsheet provides information for tenants about how to complain as well as explaining the different roles of the Regulator of Social Housing and the Housing Ombudsman Service. It also outlines how the two organisations are working together in the context of delivering commitments in the Social Housing White Paper.