The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee – Report on the Regulation of Social Housing, July 2022

Published on November 1, 2022

Published on November 1, 2022

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee launched an inquiry into the quality and regulation of social housing in England with a call for evidence in November 2021. The committee received and published 102 written submissions (including from the London Tenants Federation).

It then invited a range of private and local authority social housing providers, tenant representatives (including LTF) and housing bodies, ITV’s Daniel Hewitt, the Housing Ombudsman and regulator, and the Minister for rough sleeping and Housing, to attend six oral evidence sessions.

It also carried out a survey of social housing tenants, which ran from 31 March to 14 April 2022 and received 628 responses. The committee talked directly to tenants and visited social housing estates in Regina Road, Croydon and Central Hill in Lambeth.

The committee’s report, published in July 2022, covers many topics. The full list of its recommendations to the government is at the end of the report.

We have set out some of the recommendations that tally with LTF members’ policy positions and the evidence we provided in writing and in person to the committee – most relating to tenant involvement.

(a) The regulator’s tenant involvement and empowerment standard should require providers to support the establishment of genuinely independent tenants’ and residents’ associations, including providing the necessary funding.

(b) The government and the regulator should ensure that tenants’ satisfaction measures and the access to information scheme are implemented in such a way that tenants have confidence in the reliability and effectiveness as a way of holding their landlords to account.

NB currently, tenants of housing associations (private registered providers) do not have the access to information that council tenants have via the Freedom of Information Act 2000. While the Social Housing White Paper, of November 2020, proposed this, it has yet to be provided it in legislation.

(c) Social housing providers, especially the larger ones, should prioritise putting the tenant at the centre of how they deliver housing services, including by relying far less on impersonal and remote methods of communication and increasing the number of local offices with staff who know the area. Also, the Regulator of Social Housing should significantly strengthen the wording of the tenant involvement and empowerment standard to require providers to deliver housing services that are genuinely local and tenant centred.

The committee said that it seems obvious that there is a tendency for large providers to become more remote and impersonal. It said that if such providers struggle to provide more local and personal housing services, it means they are simply too big and have forgotten their original purpose, which is to provide affordable housing to those who cannot meet their housing needs elsewhere.

(d) There should be a much clearer requirement for the regulator to engage with tenants whenever it investigates breaches of the consumer standard.

There had been many criticisms of the ‘light touch’ approach to the regulation of landlord performance on repairs and upkeep of social rented homes.

(e) Social housing providers should take stigma and discrimination seriously and not assume that their staff are immune from such prejudices, and ensure their boards better reflect their communities

(f) Social housing providers and the Housing Ombudsman should adopt a coordinated strategy to increase awareness among tenants of the ombudsman. Providers should routinely send letters and leaflets to tenants specifically about how they can complain to the ombudsman, and to include this information in all other correspondence

(g) The Government should introduce funding specifically for regeneration that does not require the delivery of net additional housing and deliver on its commitment to increase the supply of homes for social rent.

(h) The Government should provide an update on social housing providers’ access to funds for building safety remediation – ensuring they have the same access to funds as private landlords. It should identify how the funding gap can be bridged. The Government should also provide an update on the impact of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and the ability of social landlords to decarbonise their stock and in the home standard to place a specific requirement on providers to regularly monitor their stock.

(i) The Government should set out how it plans to fully fund the one-to-one and like-to-like replacement of homes sold under the proposed extension of the statutory right to buy to tenants of private social housing providers. One-for-one replacement must be completed within The Regulation of Social Housing three years of the sale. The Government should publish its assessment of whether extending a genuine right to buy to tenants of private providers might result in the ONS reclassifying the sector as part of the public sector

In case you haven’t already read our briefing on Right to Buy Sales and Replacements – please find the  link here.

Please note that the Government’s Social Housing Regulation Bill is working its way through parliament. The first  reading in the House of Lords was on 8th June 2022 and the sessions on the Lords have now been completed. The date of the first reading in the House of Commons has yet to be announced.