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Social Housing White Paper: responses from the sector

By 17/11/2020No Comments

James Prestwich, director of policy and external affairs at the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH): “We are pleased to see the long-awaited white paper published today. Increasing transparency, accountability and tenant involvement are all positive steps, reflecting the crucial elements of an effective landlord and tenant relationship.

“We need to take the time to look in detail at the proposals. In particular, we at CIH are keen to work with the Regulator of Social Housing to ensure its enhanced powers benefit all tenants and drive ever greater professionalism across the sector. In order to achieve this, it is important to recognise that providing the best possible service to tenants requires a partnership between landlords, the regulator, tenants and the government itself.

“The impact of the pandemic has further highlighted the crucial role of social housing in our society, and the measures brought forward in the white paper should seek to build on the existing strengths of the sector and deliver genuine improvements for tenants.”

Grenfell United: “Grenfell United have long fought for one of the legacies of the Grenfell fire tragedy to be that people who live in social housing feel that there is a difference in their lives. Three-and-a-half years on, that’s not the case: residents across the country are still treated badly.

“We, along with housing charity Shelter, called for a brand new regulator. We didn’t get that. We’ve got the same social housing regulator, but for the first time this regulator will be tasked with rooting out toxic landlords through proactive inspections and tenants will have more rights to pursue complaints through the ombudsman.

“If this white paper is going to make a difference, the regulator and the ombudsman need to understand the devastating impact bad landlords can and do have on people’s lives. We have little faith that bad landlords will improve themselves – so the responsibility now lies with the regulator and ombudsman to use their new powers to ensure no residents are ever treated how we were.

“Ultimately it will be for residents themselves to determine if these changes go far enough to making their lives better and homes safer – and creating a lasting legacy for the 72 innocent lives so needlessly lost at Grenfell.”

Helen Evans, chair of G15: “The G15 are individually and collectively focused on continuously improving services through resident engagement and we welcome the government’s recognition of the importance of this.

“We support the principles behind the Charter for Social Housing Residents and in recent years have fundamentally accelerated our work in these areas but we recognise we still have more to learn.

“We are keen to engage with government on the detail of these announcements and have offered ministers an opportunity to meet with our residents to hear their feedback directly.”

Darren Rodwell, housing spokesperson at the Local Government Association: “Councils are proud of their housing and the individuals and families that call it home. It is paramount that the voice of all social housing residents is heard and councils are committed to improving standards and empowering and supporting tenants. We support measures that will make the existing redress process clearer, equitable and accessible for all tenants, regardless of the tenure they are living in.

“Councils are also determined that their tenants should have the security of a safe and well-maintained home with any issues quickly and satisfactorily addressed. Tenants of all housing tenures should expect that their landlords will consistently work towards improving living conditions.

“Now is the time to reverse the decline in council housing over the past few decades. As important as these reforms are for tenants, they will not help to tackle the severe shortage of social housing the country faces.

“Every penny spent on building new social housing is an investment that has the potential to bring significant economic and social returns. We have set out how handing councils the powers and resources to build 100,000 social homes for rent each year would help to reduce spiralling council housing waiting lists and deliver a £14.5bn boost to the economy.”

Matthew Walker, chair of PlaceShapers: “We warmly welcome the white paper on social housing. Our members put our residents at the heart of all we do. The central question the white paper seeks to address is one we are constantly asking ourselves: how we improve the experience our residents have so that their homes and communities are places they feel safe, secure and happy, and the services they receive are of the highest quality?

“Our members are anchor institutions in places. They invest for the long term and seek to work with residents and communities to improve lives and livelihoods. Nowhere has this been more evident than during this year, as we have partnered with local organisations and community leaders to support people through COVID-19.

“Many PlaceShapers members have innovative models of involving residents in how their work is delivered. But we know we can do more to create a more equal relationship with our residents and to really listen to the challenges they are facing, so we can overcome them together.

“Our members work with residents to ensure their voices are heard and views listened. We welcome measures which support this in the form of a greater role for the regulator in proactive consumer regulation. It is vital it is adequately funded to meet this remit and it is developed with residents and the sector.

“We are always disappointed if a resident feels the need to complain – and are keen to learn from complaints, so we welcome a strengthened Housing Ombudsman to speed up this process.

“We look forward to reading the detail, but the proposed new charter sets out standards which we believe will ensure every social housing tenant in the country has a decent, safe, affordable home and their voice is heard and listened to by their landlord. In due course, we believe this charter should also be extended to all those who rent their homes in the private sector.”

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