CWAG News Update May 2018

21 May 2018: CWAG News Update May 2018

 
 
This update includes information and links to the following topics: 
 
·         Social Housing Green Paper Update
·         Feedback from ARCH New build Network Meeting attended by CWAG
·         Hackitt Report
·         Welfare Reform Survey – NFA
·         Building Council Homes for Londoners – Prospectus
·         Right to Buy Receipts – review announced
·         New documents in the library / Recent Publications
 
Social Housing Green Paper Update
 
The publication of the Green Paper on the future of social housing, promised for spring 2018, is now likely to be delayed into summer and possibly beyond.

However the debate the role and importance of social housing is already well underway and a number of organisations, including the Labour Party, have published papers setting out their vision for the future of social housing, in the hope of influencing those working on the Green Paper.
 
The Labour Party Green Paper ‘Housing for the Many’
 
This consultation paper sets out a wide ranging and ambitious long-term programme for tackling the dysfunctional housing market at the centre of which is a commitment to build more than 100,000 genuinely affordable homes a year. 

Labour would to build one million affordable homes over 10 years; with a longer term objective that half of all new homes built should be genuinely affordable. Councils would be at the heart of delivering this programme.

Labour would redefine affordable housing, offering three distinct products:

  •  - Social rent – rents would be well below market levels, set using the established formula based on local incomes, property values and property size.
  •  - Living rent – rents would be set at no more than one third of average local household incomes.
  •  - Low cost home ownership – based around a new First Buy scheme offering discounts so mortgage payments are no more than one third of average local incomes. The value of the discount would be ‘locked’ into the property so future purchasers could also benefit.
      •  
        A new Department for Housing, headed by a Secretary of State with a seat in the Cabinet, would drive the New Deal on housing.

      Other proposals to boost house building include strengthening Homes England and encouraging bids from councils and other strategic partnerships.A new OBR–style Office for Housing Delivery would monitor and audit delivery of the affordable homes programme. 
       
The consultation discusses a range of issues to encourage development, improve planning and land release as well as measures to encourage delivery and good design. Other proposals would curtail the Right to Buy and address issues of tenant empowerment and fairness.
 
Other organisations publishing papers on their vision for the future of social housing include:

 

ARCH New build Network
 
On 16th April 2018, a number of CWAG members attended a meeting of senior council development staff hosted by ARCH (Association of Retained Council Housing). The aim is to develop a network for sharing experience and good practice amongst council officers involved in developing new council housing. In total 23 councils were represented, including 8 CWAG members.

The programme included an update on the current funding position by MHCLG, case studies from two councils successfully developing new housing in very conditions and an open discussion session. The meeting was very interactive as people probed the detail behind the case studies and took the opportunity to raise questions and issues with colleagues engaged in similar work across the country.
 
Hackitt Report – Building a Safer Future
 
The final report of the Hackitt Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety ‘Building a Safer Future’ was published on 17th May 2018.

The Review caused immediate controversy as it failed to recommend a ban on the use of combustible material in cladding systems for high rise blocks.   Instead, the report focusses on measures that would deliver a change in the culture and approach within the building industry.

According to the report’s author, Dame Judith Hackitt, the changes required need to address ‘systemic’ problems across the building industry rather than introduce a list of specific rules and regulations.

‘The current system is far too complex, it lacks clarity as to who is responsible for what, and there is inadequate regulatory oversight and enforcement. Simply adding more prescription or making amendments to the current system, such as restricting or prohibiting certain practices, will not address the root causes…..The recommendations in this report will lead to a clearer, simpler but more robust approach to the building and on-going management of high rise residential buildings.’

Whilst welcoming the review, the Government moved quickly to respond to criticisms and made a series of commitments on safety issues affecting high rise buildings including:

  •  - launching a consultation on banning the use of combustible materials in cladding systems on high-rise buildings 
  •  - banning desktop studies if the current consultation which closes on 25 May does not demonstrate that they can be safely used
  •  - ensuring residents have a better mechanism for whistle-blowing on landlords who do not maintain safe buildings
  •  - changing the law to achieve reform of the building regulatory system, with strong sanctions for those who fail to comply
 
Welfare Reform Survey
 
The NFA and ARCH have sent out the annual combined Welfare Reform survey, which this year is focused on the impact of Universal Credit.

Whilst the survey has been sent out to ALMOs, councils need be aware of and receive copies of the completed surveys. We are hoping that the survey will achieve a good return rate as this will provide insights across the whole Council housing sector. The data gathered is invaluable in setting out and demonstrating emerging issues and areas of concern; the more responses received, the stronger the case that can be made.  The return date is Friday 8th June 2018.

The findings from previous years’ surveys have received good coverage and been influential in providing evidence to MPs and Ministers about the impact of welfare reform, helping to make the case for the much needed changes announced in the Autumn Budget 2017.

Despite these recent policy changes, there is an ongoing need to understand the impact of the rollout process on councils and their tenants and provide up-to-date evidence to MPs and Ministers to drive continuous improvement. This is especially important as more areas move to Full Service.
 
 
Building Council Homes for Londoners – Prospectus
 
The Mayor of London has announced plans to build 10,000 new council homes in London by 2022. Councils have been invited to bid for £1.67bn new funding at grant levels to deliver social rent levels.
 
 
Right to Buy Receipts
 
In a written statement, Dominic Raab, the Secretary of State for Housing, indicated that the Government is actively considering the case for allowing greater flexibility on the use of Right to Buy receipts.

Whilst the statement restates the Government’s ongoing commitment to the Right to Buy policy, councils are now being encouraged to build new council housing and the case for greater flexibility on the use of Right to Buy receipts will form part of the social housing green paper consultation.

Note : Sadiq Khan has already announced greater flexibilities on RTB receipts in London.

 
New in the Library / Recent Publications
 
Presentation Slides ARCH New build Network
Every Voice Counts – a spotlight on tenant engagement – NFA Best Practice Briefing
NFA Annual Review 2017/18
Firm Foundations – 2017 – Annual Survey – Summary Findings NFA