Repairs and maintenance are a key priorities for tenants and central to the success of housing associations. Housing associations spent over £3.5 billion on repairs and maintenance in 2011.
Decent Homes Programme
This programme has been a catalyst to improve the condition of social housing. To achieve the standard many local authorities have chosen to transfer their homes to associations. It is estimated that at least 400,000 non decent homes have been transferred since 1997 all of which will be made decent or even better. Associations have the ability to draw in private funding to enable improvements to be carried out.
Regulatory framework for social housing in England 2012
The new regulatory framework was introduced from April 2012 and includes two main Consumer Standards related to repairs and maintenance.
The Home Standard
Under the Home standard, housing associations need to ensure their homes are maintained to the Decent Homes Standard as a minimum. However, where a home has been developed to a higher standard using public finance, it needs to be maintained to that standard. This standard also includes the objective of completing repairs right first time.
The Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard
The Tenant Involvement and Empowerment standard requires housing associations to offer tenants 'opportunities to be involved in ... the management of repair and maintenance services, such as the commissioning and undertaking a range of repair tasks as agreed with landlords and sharing in savings made'. It is up to each association to consider what opportunities for involvement they can offer tenants and how any savings might be shared. However, the standard does not require a full-blown tenant cashback scheme as originally outlined by the minister.
Grant Shapps announced the Tenant Cashback Scheme on 7 April 2011. The scheme aims to give tenants more control over the repairs budgets for their homes, for example carrying out their own DIY, or commissioning it locally and keeping any savings made. Four pilot schemes - Bromford, Together Housing, Home Group and Irwell Valley- are currently operating.
Of the current pilots, most use an inspection regime at the beginning and end of the period.
Details from those pilots that have presented at our Asset management conferences are set out below:
The Home Rewards Club running in West Midlands offers two 6-monthly rewards (£150 each) for tenants carrying out low level day to day repairs but do not allow external repairs, work at height, gas, electricity, asbestos or emergency repairs. They are also offering a £200 reward in relation to housing management. So far reasonable interest has been shown with about 140 tenants participating.
Together Housing's scheme has wider objectives in terms of resident empowerment and developing transferable skills. They are offering rewards for not using the repairs service but have had limited take up so far and have had to negotiate insurance issues.
The Customer Reward scheme operates in three areas of the country (North East, Essex and Cumbria) in partnership with B&Q. Different models are being tested in each area. There is a defined list of repairs that tenants can do under the scheme, with training and advice offered to tenants by B&Q. If Home Group has to carry out any of the listed repairs, then the tenant falls out of the pilot and will receive no reward as they have not done the repairs themselves. Insurers are happy with the scope of the repairs covered by the scheme and the provisions Home Group has made to address health and safety and mitigate risks. To date, there are over 130 tenants participating.
The Department for Communities and Local Government consultation on Directions to the Regulator included an impact assessment but this was unable to quantify the costs or benefits of the tenant cashback scheme before the pilots finish.