Government publishes Social Housing White Paper

19 November 2020

A summary of the white paper proposals and our initial response and next steps.

The government published the Social Housing White Paper on 17 November which aims to deliver the improvement in transparency and accountability promised in the 2018 green paper.

The paper sets out a Charter for Social Housing Residents and also outlines plans for new regulation, a strengthened Housing Ombudsman to speed up complaints, and a set of tenant satisfaction measures that social landlords will have to report against.

Key measures

At the heart of the white paper is the Charter for Social Housing Residents. The charter sets out seven commitments that residents should expect from their landlord:

  1. To be safe in your home.
  2. To know how your landlord is performing, including on repairs, complaints and safety, and how it spends its money.
  3. To have your complaints dealt with promptly and fairly, with access to a strong Ombudsman.
  4. To be treated with respect, backed by a strong consumer regulator and improved consumer standards for tenants.
  5. To have your voice heard by your landlord.
  6. To have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in, with your landlord keeping your home in good repair.
  7. The government will ensure social housing can support people to take their first step to ownership.

This charter echoes many of the commitments housing associations are making in the Together with Tenants charter, particularly on tenant voice, relationships, accountability, quality, and complaints.

The white paper also promises a range of other measures and reforms:

  • A reformed Regulator of Social Housing with new reactive and proactive consumer regulation.
  • The Regulator to inspect organisations with over 1,000 homes at least once every four years to review compliance with the consumer standards.
  • A strengthened Housing Ombudsman which allows tenants easier access and speeds up complaint resolution, as well as new quarterly webinars for residents on insight reports, complaints data, learning points and case studies.
  • A series of key performance indicators (KPIs) that landlords will be required to report against, with proposed satisfaction measures on repairs, safety, complaints, engagement and neighbourhood management. Landlords will also be required to report on executive pay and how they spend their money.
  • A new accountable person for safety, and consumer standards, within each landlord.
  • An expectation that tenants should be able to access key information from their landlord, though housing associations will not be subject to Freedom of Information requests.
  • An intention to tackle anti-social behaviour by clarifying the roles of different agencies and signposting who can support residents.

The government has also launched a further consultation on mandating smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in rental homes, and has published a response to the Social Housing Green Paper consultation and Call for Evidence on the Review of Regulation.

NHF response

We’ve welcomed the White Paper as backing the sector’s own proactive work to improve accountability, quality, and transparent relationships with residents.

We’re pleased that the paper welcomes the sector’s proactive work on Together with Tenants and acknowledges both the importance of social housing and the good work of many social landlords.

Some of the changes proposed in the paper may be challenging to implement or require further detail, but overall the paper is constructive and practical. It’s particularly welcome that housing associations’ vital independence will not be at risk by being subject to FOI. The government has also been clear that it is ready work collaboratively with the sector to shape the detail of the proposals.

Next steps

The paper comes at a time when housing associations have been working hard to support residents and communities through the pandemic. Together with other proposed reforms to shared ownership, planning, and building safety regulation, there will be a lot of change for housing associations to work through at a difficult and disrupted time.

Our focus will be working constructively to shape the detail behind these plans and supporting our members to prepare for the changes. Together with Tenants gives us a strong basis to approach this work, and ministers and officials are keen to work closely with the sector and hear our views.

A member briefing on the White Paper will be available soon. We will also be holding a webinar to talk through the detail on 26 November, and will discuss the paper with members at upcoming meetings.

We’d like to hear members’ initial comments and questions, so please get in touch if you have any views to share.

Who to speak to

Contact the team