CWAG News Update July 2022

CWAG News Update July 2022

This update includes the following:

·         Boris Johnson relaunches housing association RTB scheme
·         Social Housing Regulation Bill
·         White Paper ‘A fairer private rented sector’
·         New in the library
·         Recent Publications

Boris Johnson relaunches housing association RTB scheme

Home ownership initiatives were a key element in what was billed as Boris Johnson’s relaunch speech on 9th June 2022, following the vote of confidence in his leadership.
In his speech Boris Johnson confirmed the government’s intention to extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants:
‘I want us to deliver on the long-standing commitment, made by several governments, to extend the right to buy to housing associations.’ Boris Johnson
This policy dates back to the 2015 Conservative Election Manifesto and the subsequent agreement with the National Housing Federation (NHF). It is a voluntary rather than a statutory scheme.
A 2018 pilot programme in the Midlands generated 1,892 sales by April 2020 – relatively small scale compared with the statutory council scheme. The evaluation of the pilot highlighted significant funding and replacement issues the considerable time lag before replacement properties become available. Also, replacement properties are often smaller and in different geographical areas from the original RTB property. The requirement to develop two affordable homes for each property sold in London, in certain circumstances, has also proved difficult to deliver.
Johnson’s announcement didn’t identify how the programme will be funded. In what may be a positive sign, the speech didn’t refer to receipts from the sale of vacant higher value council housing as a source of funding. However the power to raise funds by this route remains on the statute books despite a commitment in the Social Housing Green Paper to repeal the power ‘as soon as Parliamentary time allows’.
In a separate statement Michael Gove indicated that funding for discounts and replacement homes would come from “across Government.” He also referred to replacing homes on a like-for-like basis. This implies that the number of tenants able to exercise the new housing association RTB scheme is likely to be capped and directly linked to the level of funding available.
Johnson also announced an independent review of access to mortgage finance for first-time buyers and changes to welfare rules to allow wider use of benefit payments to cover mortgage costs:
‘We want it to be easier to get a mortgage…. So, today I can announce a comprehensive review of the mortgage market.’ Boris Johnson
The review will report later this year and will focus on better access to low deposit mortgages and offering alternative financing options to extend opportunities for home ownership.
‘We will look to change the rules on welfare so that the 1.5 million working people who are in receipt of housing benefits and want to buy their first home will be given a new choice’ Boris Johnson
This announcement may provide a further boost to RTB as tenants convert rent payments into mortgage payments.

Social Housing Regulation Bill

On 8th June 2022 the Government published the Social Housing Regulation Bill; this has now completed its first and second reading stages in the House of Lords and will move on to the House of Commons.
The Bill will remove the ‘serious detriment’ test and allow for the introduction of proactive consumer regulation by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH). Much of the work required to implement the legislation is being progressed in parallel by the RSH to allow for its early introduction.
Key changes include the introduction of new consumer standards and satisfaction measures to track landlord performance, increasing accountability and transparency. An advisory panel made up of social housing tenants, social landlords and others will also be set up to provide information and advice to the Regulator.
The legislation introduces a regime of routine inspections for social landlords with more than 1000 homes, referred to by the government as ‘Ofsted-style inspections’. In addition, the RSH will gain new enforcement powers to levy fines and order emergency remedial works for which social landlords will be financially liable.
The Bill also includes a mechanism for the Secretary of State to impose new electrical safety duties on landlords. The government has published a related consultation on electrical safety standards for social housing to run alongside the legislative process. The consultation proposes mandatory PAT testing of all electrical appliances provided by the landlord at least every 5 years.

White Paper - ‘A fairer private rented sector’

On 16th June 2022 DLUHC published a White Paper setting out government policy for the private rented sector (PRS) as part of the wider levelling up agenda. This includes plans for a Renters Reform Bill which will include the following:
·         Abolition of Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions and introduction of a simpler tenancy structure
·         Application of the Decent Homes Standard to the PRS for the first time
·         Introduction of a new Property Portal to help landlords understand their obligations
·         Introduction of a housing ombudsman covering all PRS landlords  
The White Paper sets out a 12-point action plan which includes measures to strengthen local councils’ enforcement powers as well as proposals to make it illegal for landlords to have blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits.  
There will be major reform of tenancy law as all tenants are to be moved onto a system of periodic tenancies, meaning that a tenancy will only end if a tenant ends it or a landlord has a valid reason for obtaining possession, defined in law. There will be a doubling of notice periods for rent increases and tenants will have stronger powers to challenge these.
It will also be easier for tenants to have pets, a right which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse.

New in the Library

Presentation Slides - Fire and Building Safety Webinar - 23rd June 2022

CWAG members attended a joint ARCH / NFA briefing on the Fire Safety Act 2021 and Building Safety Act 2022. Presentations included a detailed overview of the legislation and timetable for implementation up to the full safety case ‘switch on’ in April 2024. There were presentations from the Department of Levelling-up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), the new Building Safety Regulator (one of 3 new Regulators to be set up under the legislation) and the Home Office which has responsibility for the new Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022. The meeting also included case studies from councils and ALMOs that have made a start in implementing the new arrangements.

Recent Publications

House of Commons Library Research Briefing – Introducing a voluntary Right to Buy for housing association tenants in England – June 2022
This research paper sets out the background to the housing association voluntary Right to Buy scheme and discusses the issues raised by the different pilot programmes.
 Housing Ombudsman Service Insight Report – Issue 10 – Published June 2022
This latest report covers January to March 2022, a period in which 6,128 enquiries and complaints were received by the watchdog. Case studies in this edition are drawn from the East and West Midlands and East of England.

Read Report