by Jane Whyatt
Among numerous other pressures, the social housing sector is preparing for the additional consumer regulation by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) and new “Tenant Satisfaction Measures” (TSM) used to assess performance. This focus on tighter regulation is a key issue for social housing providers.
The Queen’s Speech 2022 confirmed that the government will introduce legislation to improve the regulation of social housing to strengthen the rights of tenants and ensure better quality, safer homes.
In response to a range of challenges in the social housing sector, including the issues raised in response to the Grenfell Tower fire, a shortage of quality housing and the impact of the COVID pandemic on the sector, the government issued “The Charter for Social Housing Residents – Social Housing White Paper” in November 2020.
The White Paper proposed a broad range of social housing reforms designed to compel registered social housing landlords in England to be more directly accountable for the homes and services they provide. The new arrangements expand the RSH’s remit and convey greater legal powers.
The White Paper also sets out proposals for themes of consumer standards to assess how well social landlords are performing and sets out the intended outcomes by which they will be assessed. It is built on the premise that tenants should expect to be safe in their home and have access to information about how their landlord is performing in areas such as repairs and complaints.
The aim is to ensure quality landlord services in all social housing properties, irrespective of whether it is a provided by a registered provider (i.e. housing association or a local authority).
The process to operate the TSMs is shown below:
The White Paper has been through a formal consultation process, which completed on 3 March 2022. Consultation feedback is currently being considered by the Regulator.
The first year of its implementation is planned to be 2023/24. Data for 2022/23 is set to be published in Autumn 2024, and then annually after this.
A range of legislative changes are required to implement this new framework. These are designed to:
- Facilitate the Regulator obtaining and reviewing evidence from landlords on how they have sought to improve engagement with tenants and how landlords meet the new consumer standards.
- Strengthen its enforcement powers via inspections, investigations and the ability to publish key areas of non-compliance. The Regulator’s internal resources will be developed accordingly.
- Allow tenants to be able to hold their landlords to account, supported by an inspection regime overseen by the regulator. Clarity of the relationship between the Regulator of Social Housing and the Housing Ombudsman so their respective work supports the work of the other.
- Require landlords to establish appropriate systems to collect and produce relevant performance data annually and to identify key named people in their organisation responsible for compliance with health and safety and with consumer standards.
The government is also looking to ensure that local authorities are held to account for the performance of their arms-length management organisations and tenant management organisations.
Boards and Governing Bodies
Whilst legislation is yet to be passed, Boards of private registered landlords, councillors, and governing bodies of local authority registered providers responsible for social housing, need to ensure now that revised processes are in place, that reported TSMs can be calculated accurately and that they can assure themselves they are fully compliant with these new requirements.
These bodies also need to consider how they can implement a virtuous loop of improved engagement and services and have an honest view of their starting point.
How can C.Co help?
This is a significant change to the regulatory regime for social housing. Its success will require stakeholders to collaborate proactively.
Preparations for this change can commence now by effective stakeholder engagement and implementation planning. This includes the development of robust inspection arrangements, a proactive approach to monitoring and internal oversight of landlord performance. In addition, processes for accessing information for social housing tenants should be enhanced to ensure information is easily accessible and appropriate evidence that this is informing decision making is readily available.
Our C.Co team is made up of people who have vast experience in the public and housing sector in strategy development, governance, compliance, risk management and assurance. We would be happy to discuss how we can help to ensure that you are not only compliant with the above changes but can use them as a platform for future success. Contact us today to find out more.