Rents for Social Housing from 2020-21

The government has published a consultation on its social housing rent policy from 2020.

The document reflects the government announcement in October 2017 of the intention to permit registered providers to increase their rents by up to CPI+1% each year, for a period of at least 5 years.

For the first time, the government intends to direct the Regulator to apply its rent standard to all registered providers – i.e. to both local authority registered providers and private registered providers.  Bringing local authority landlords within the scope of the RSH rent standard will respond to the roll out of Universal Credit.

The consultation also proposes changes to how “formula rent” is calculated and the rules around affordable rent – such as preventing social landlords from resetting annual rents by more than CPI+1% when re-letting a home to the existing tenant.

In its assessment of the impact of the new rent policy, the government states “Five policy options were considered ranging from permitting an annual increase of up to CPI+2% through to the continuation of the 1% rent reduction.  The preferred option is CPI+1%. This option is neutral in terms of delivery of affordable homes”.

The new policy will come into effect from 1 April 2020. It will not override landlords’ statutory obligation to complete the four year social rent reduction as required by the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016. Where a landlord has not completed the social rent reduction by 31 March 2020 (because its rent year begins after 1 April), it must complete the reduction before the applying the new policy.

The consultation available here closes on 8 November.  If you are responding to the consultation, it would be helpful  if you could provide us with a copy of your consultation response to help with our deliberations.

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NHC consults with members on the social housing green paper

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.

Rural Housing for an Ageing Population Write-up

The Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) was delighted to join Lord Best and a variety of stakeholders in delivering the recent Rural Housing for an Ageing Population Conference.  Alongside ADASS, Housing LIN, and the LGA, the NHC welcomed over one hundred delegates to the Harrogate Convention Centre to explore the opportunities and challenges of providing fit-for-purpose housing and care to older people in rural settings.

Lord Best began proceedings with the important reminder that housing, health, and social care are three legs of the same stool; “miss out one, and the stool falls over”.  The purpose of the conference was to advance discussions on the points made in the recent report published by Housing LIN and the All Party Parliamentary Group Housing and Care for Older People – “Rural Housing for an Ageing Population: Preserving Independence”.  The report’s main concern lay in the suggestion that a growing proportion of older people in rural communities were finding their homes were no longer suitable for their needs, the repercussions of which were diminished independence and increased care costs, both to the individual and the public purse.

In their opening remarks Lord Best and Conference Chair Neil Revely, Chair of the ADASS Housing Policy Network, highlighted three facilitators of suitable rural housing for older people: a long-term strategic view with a focus on integration and collaboration; and more specifically, the presence of Rural Housing Enablers, and the work of Homes Improvement Agencies.  All three were addressed as part of the conference with a summary provided below:

Strategy, Integration, and Collaboration

Commended by Neil Revely for their integrated approach to housing and care, Richard Webb from North Yorkshire County Council closed the day with a presentation on the council’s journey to date.  Influenced by work stretching back to 1999, North Yorkshire established their long-term strategy for housing and care with the publication of ‘Our Future Lives’ in 2006.  Expanded on in 2015 with the ‘Care and Support Where I Live Strategy’ the Council continues to be successful whilst operating within a complex system that spans England’s largest county.

The council’s Extra Care Scheme now consists of 22 operational sites and 1,111 units.  This has been made possible by a strong partnership between the County Council, Borough and District Councils, housing providers, developers, and the communities themselves.  There is strong political and corporate support for the belief that Extra Care is one aspect of the wider regeneration of communities.  Schemes are mixed tenure and include facilities central to peoples lives; shops, libraries, and health services.

The care itself centres around flexible packages that can be adapted depending on need.  Eligibility and financial assessments are made to ensure this flexible approach is sustainable. In some cases schemes are delivering NHS Step Up / Step Down and end of life services and all properties receive 24/7 background support.

Rural Housing Enablers

Representing the York, North Yorkshire & East Riding Partnerships, Sarah Hall discussed with delegates how Rural Housing Enablers (RHEs) ensure that communities have the resource and expertise needed to provide suitable homes.  Their network; comprising of Local Authorities, Registered Providers, National Parks, and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA); is used as a forum to identify and debate best practice, plan events to promote their work, and overall raise the profile of RHEs.

At an organisational level, RHEs act as a resource to identify opportunities whether it be recognising housing need, finding ways of meeting that need, or bringing together interested parties to push projects forward.  This involves close working with Registered Providers, land owners, Councillors, and developers. Engagement is also central to this process and RHEs involve communities through ‘Town Hall’ meetings, Open Days, and Walkabouts.

The role of RHEs in identifying and addressing the housing need of older people has become increasingly important over time and work in this area has been identified as a priority moving forward. Recently RHEs have been involved in developing Extra Care Schemes in two former Almhouses.

Homes Improvement Agencies

Described as the ‘Swiss Army Knife of Housing Services’, Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) provide a range of services to help individuals retain independence in their homes. These services are of particular importance to older people in rural settings where homes are characterised by steep stairs, narrow corridors, and stepped access.  Represented at the conference by Sheila Mackintosh from the University of Bristol, Foundations manage the network of HIAs across England on behalf of the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government.

HIAs are unique in providing their support irrespective of tenure.  They are invariably the only housing support service available to owner occupiers and private renters.  As mentioned, their work covers all aspects of ensuring residents are safe, secure, and warm.  This includes dealing with trip hazards, repairs / improvements, and adaptions. Their interactions with residents can range from offering information and advice to assisting in moving someone into more suitable accommodation.

In rural areas, it is unsurprising that HIAs encounter challenges. Providing support across such large, sparsely populated areas can be a barrier to integration.  Similarly, leadership and focus is vital to ensure the service is proactive and doesn’t decline into crisis management. Having said that, there is a good amount of best practice from across the country.  This includes Preston Care and Repair, an independent HIA who have built a positive reputation amongst the elderly community – in one survey 77% of respondents said they would have chosen not to go ahead with repair work had it not been for the HIA service due to worry around finding a trustworthy builder.

Social Housing Green Paper’s proposals on neighbourhood management and anti-social behaviour.

One area of interest contained in the recently published Social Housing Green Paper was the renewed focus on neighbourhood management and addressing anti-social behaviour as a core component of the ‘new deal’ between tenants and landlords.  This work has always been vital and respected as such by social housing providers, yet it was notable to see that alongside ensuring properties were in good repair and buildings were structurally safe was the announcement that the Government were considering introducing a key performance indicator (KPI) covering neighbourhood management “responsibilities” as well as a KPI that will “help tackle anti-social behaviour” (ASB).

The Social Housing Green Paper proposes separate KPI’s for ASB and neighbourhood management, both underpinned by obligations set out in the Neighbourhood and Community Standard.  Excluding ASB, the Standard requires registered providers to not just maintain but improve the neighbourhoods where their homes stand.   In keeping areas ‘clean and safe’, landlords should consult with tenants and work with partners in ‘promoting social, economic, and environmental wellbeing’. Landlords should work to appreciate their role in communities and outline the positive impact they can and will make.

A central tenet of the Neighbourhood and Community Standard is the landlord’s duty to prevent and tackle ASB.   There is again a strong emphasis on “local area cooperation” and working in partnership with various agencies.  Between stakeholders there is a clear need for a joint understanding on each other’s roles and responsibilities.  Within this eco-system though, it is the landlord that must demonstrate “strong leadership, commitment and accountability” in addressing ASB “promptly, appropriately, and decisively”.

It is in dealing with complaints where the Green Paper shows concern. “Some residents were concerned that their landlords were not taking appropriate action to tackle anti-social behaviour. Residents told us that they felt their concerns were not taken seriously or were resolved too slowly.”  Additionally, In the much-vaunted section addressing the stigma felt by social housing tenants, a good proportion of the Green Paper is dedicated to the stigma borne out of interactions with landlords themselves. “Too many residents felt they were treated with contempt by their landlord – that they were spoken down to, or treated as a nuisance.”

In thinking about how these KPI’s could be gathered and presented, the Green Paper puts forward the NHS ‘Friends and Family Test’ as a blueprint.  Operational since 2012, the test is based on the premise that patients (or tenants in this instance) have the right to participate in giving feedback as a standard part of their interaction with a service.  This feedback is gathered in as close to real time as possible and is a staple of every interaction; not a one-off survey or annual comms project.  Results are gathered by and published locally by NHS England for users to “inform their decision making” and for organisations to “highlight practices that lead to good experiences and where improvements could be made”.

In our ‘On the Day Briefing’ covering the Green Paper the Northern Housing Consortium queried whether KPI’s  and league tables could prove to be a too simplistic way of ranking services: “It is important that any measure doesn’t provide an incentive to make it difficult for tenants to register complaints if it means that those encouraging honest feedback find themselves languishing at the bottom of a league table.”  Indeed, and especially in relation to tackling ASB, landlords will be all too aware of the balance between resolving complaints swiftly, but also correctly and to the long-term benefit of their tenants and neighbourhoods.  The Government however does appear to appreciate these concerns, and as part of the consultative Green Paper outline they will need to “consider how [the KPI’s] could impact on areas, and whether it could lead to some people feeling more stigmatised.”

The NHC have invited members to a series of roundtables to help formulate a collective response to the Social Housing Green Paper, these meetings can be viewed and booked onto here.  The Neighbourhood Management and ASB specific questions, listed below, will be considered by the next meeting of the Safety in Neighbourhoods Network which will also be focussing on partnership working between housing associations, local authorities, and the emergency services.

  • What key performance indicator should be used to measure whether landlords are providing good neighbourhood management?
  • How are landlords working with local partners to tackle anti-social behaviour?
  • What key performance indicator could be used to measure this work?

The next Safety in Neighbourhoods Network will meet Monday 1st October 2018, 13.00 to 15.30, at Yorkshire Housing, Leeds.  The network is free to attend for NHC members,  follow this link to register your place.

Social Housing Green Paper – A New Deal for Social Housing

The long awaited, much trailed Social Housing Green Paper announced by the former Secretary of State for Housing as a “wide-ranging, top-to-bottom review of the issues facing the sector” and by the current Secretary of State as “a landmark opportunity for major reform” was finally published on 14 August.

It was published alongside:

Read our ‘On the day Briefing’ with initial reaction to the Green Paper.

The Green Paper opens the door for considerable debate within the sector on:

  • Tackling stigma and celebrating thriving communities
  • Expanding supply and supporting home ownership
  • Effective resolution of complaints
  • Empowering residents and strengthening the regulator
  • Ensuring homes are safe and decent

We must grasp the opportunity for debate. There are many challenges for the sector in being part of the solution to the housing crisis – this is just the start.

Please join in the debate on the Green Paper

The NHC will be holding Roundtable events on the following dates:

If you are unable to attend the Roundtable events and would like to submit your views and comments, please get in touch with Karen Brown, Senior Policy Advisor –

NHC reaction to Social Housing Green Paper

At face value, the proposals laid out in the Green Paper provide a leap in the right direction from the Government towards improving the state and perception of social housing with a raft of detail exploring: the supply and quality of social homes, the rights of tenants, some of the stigmas associated with social housing tenants, service management, safety issues and the wider issues of community and the local neighbourhood.

There is much in the detail that will be pleasing to housing providers — the focus on decent homes and thriving communities and reversing the decline in council housing — reflecting calls the NHC has been making over the past months and years.

There are of course areas that may be of concern in the Green Paper — little emphasis on the funding for supply of homes for social rent, and continued emphasis on home ownership at the expense of other forms of tenure.

We are looking to the Green Paper to deliver solutions to access to truly affordable housing, quality in the rented sector, stability, and sustainability for providers.

A sentiment that we have repeated many times is the need to ensure that housing reforms do not wholly focus on new homes. The Green Paper appears to lack any real commitment to improving existing homes, in terms of revitalising communities and has only limited proposals for decent standards.  With an increasingly ageing population there will be a substantial need for supported housing improvements to existing dwellings. There is an important opportunity for the Green Paper to explicitly recognise this and to move away from “one size fits all” approaches which are not appropriate in many Northern areas.

The NHC believes there is value in developing a clear national strategy to set out overall objectives in terms of the quantity, quality and access to housing for which we are striving.  This would provide a framework for devolved approaches with the flexibility and capacity to allow localities to develop their own solutions backed by a single place based resource stream.

There is little emphasis in the Green Paper on solutions.  This is a very Green Paper – opening the door for considerable debate within the sector.   We must grasp that opportunity.

There remain long-term challenges for the sector in being part of the solution to the housing crisis – this is just the start.

Govt Consultation — Overcoming the Barriers to Longer Tenancies in the PRS

A consultation into making three-year tenancies the mandatory minimum term in the PRS was launched by the government in July.

It invites views and comments on a proposed model for a three-year tenancy with a six month break clause, and the options for implementing this. The model is designed to give tenants certainty over rents, and retains the flexibility that many desire.

Delivering a speech to launch the consultation, James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We’re bringing real change to making renting more secure. I know this is particularly important to a growing number of families, vulnerable tenants and older people who rent and live with the uncertainty of suddenly being forced to move or fear eviction if they complain about problems with their home.”

The NHC will be responding to this consultation on issues such as:

• the benefits and disadvantages of the proposed model.
• grounds for a landlord recovering a tenancy.
• restrictions on rent increases.
• what other, alternative options should the government consider.

The NHC is keen to hear from member organisations with their views on the consultation questions. Please get in touch if you have any views to share. Contact Karen Brown.

Find out more about the consultation which runs until the 26 August here.