What do the regulatory changes in social housing mean for our sector?

22 August 2022

In recent months, the government has published the Social Housing Regulation Bill and the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Select Committee Report. Both of these are aimed at tackling the challenges around the quality of social homes and better regulation.

Now the dust has settled it’s a good time to review both of these important announcements and outline the impact for our sector moving forward.

Social Housing Regulation Bill

Everyone deserves a home that is safe, secure, and of good quality. That is why the NHF welcomed the Social Housing Regulation Bill, which will begin to deliver the commitments set out in the Social Housing White Paper. This includes introducing measures to improve access to swift and fair redress and enhance the powers of the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH).

The Bill is the latest step in addressing the systemic issues identified following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, not just on the safety and quality of social housing, but about how tenants are treated by their landlords.

It’s already begun passage through parliament and will be examined at the House of Lords committee stage in early September. So far, the Bill has received broad support across parliament, even with the government in a period of transition. We expect continued progress regardless of the outcome of the leadership election.

At the heart of the bill is a plan to broaden the remit of the RSH to allow it to be more proactive on consumer matters such as disrepair and safety. As a sector, we have been working towards the direction set out in the Bill to tackle the major issues identified. 

LUHC Committee Report

We also welcomed the recent report from the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee examining the quality and regulation of social housing in England.

While the report is clear about the need to address the poor quality of some homes with urgency, it also offers a balanced reflection of the issues explored and puts forward several recommendations for the government and the sector. For example, the report calls on the government to commit to building more social homes and introduce funding specifically for regeneration to tackle housing disrepair.

The government has yet to respond to the report and it may prompt a debate about the role and remit of the regulator that could translate into amendments in the Social Housing Regulation Bill.

For example, the report calls on the ‘regulator to use more of its enforcement powers and asks about the interpretation of the regulator’s objective to minimise interference. We’ve supported stronger and more proactive consumer regulation, but we want to see the current co-regulatory approach maintained in any new regime. 

Much of the detail that will shape the regulatory regime will come through consultation, but the Bill sets out a clear direction of travel. Under the new regime, social landlords can expect greater scrutiny on their performance due to increased reporting requirements.

The Social Housing Regulation Bill and the LUHC Committee’s recommendations both make it clear all social housing stakeholders must prioritise the quality of social housing.

Impact for housing associations

For housing associations, the new regulatory changes mean being ahead of the curve and proactively taking steps to regularly monitor the condition of homes, ensure complaint processes are accessible and effective, as well as ensure staff are well equipped to engage meaningfully with residents.

Social landlords will also need to consider how they effectively demonstrate transparency and accountability with their residents. This includes establishing systems to implement new measures such as the Access to Information Scheme and the Tenant Satisfaction Measures.

Housing associations are already preparing for the new regime, and we’d encourage all our members to proactively consider what more they can do to be as transparent and accountable as possible and investigate and tackle quality issues that exist in their homes.

As the Social Housing Regulation Bill continues through parliament, we will continue to consult with members and engage with the government to ensure that it brings forward a regulatory environment that results in meaningful change for residents and is deliverable by housing associations.

Housing associations can learn more about the changes to come by attending our Social Housing Regulation Bill webinar in September.