Along with the rest of the sector the Northern Housing Consortium had been anticipating the publication of a Social Housing Green Paper for some time. So, when the document was finally released on 14th August, it was important for the NHC to bring members together and take full advantage of the opportunity to give detailed feedback to Government on what the Secretary of State described as a “landmark opportunity for major reform”.
Consultation Roundtables were arranged for each region of the North which drew around 50 attendees. Karen Brown, Senior Policy Adviser at the Northern Housing Consortium provided an update on the Green Paper and highlighted that the door was now open for considerable debate on a range of issues – empowering residents and tackling stigma, resolving complaints and ensuring homes are safe and decent, through to expanding supply and development opportunities.
The evidence collected will be used as the basis of the NHC’s response to the Green Paper and members provided many points of discussion. Organisations were keen to emphasise the work that is consistently completed to ensure homes are safe and to meet the Decent Homes Standard. Overall the feeling was that health and safety regimes are robust; the issue at hand was more about ensuring consistency and clarity in the regulations which are currently complex and contradictory. On mediation and resolving disputes, some members felt that, while there have been consistent improvements, that this is an opportunity to look at all good practice but that changes need to be proportionate and to manage expectations. Considering the Government’s proposals on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to be published through League Tables, members felt that the implementation and use of a basket of measures would be most usefully linked to improvements measured through a structured plan so that outcomes were transparent for residents. Some of the indicators proposed will be difficult to measure and a more nuanced and partnership approach may be required. There was consensus that KPI’s would be affected by local circumstances and this would have to be sufficiently taken into account.
The meetings reflected the NHC’s earlier assertion that there is much in the detail that is welcome: the focus on decent homes, thriving communities and reversing the decline in council housing all of which reflect calls the NHC has been making for some time. There are of course areas that may be of concern in the Green Paper and it will be interesting to see how the proposals on a new regulatory framework, the funding for supply of homes for social rent, and continued emphasis on home ownership are all evolved.
The Government has stated that it intends that the Green Paper will generate “a nationwide conversation on social housing”. Through these roundtables and other engagement, the NHC is working with politicians and civil servants to ensure a strong Northern voice is part of this conversation. We would encourage our members to engage constructively in the debate that follows the Green Paper.