No Home Left Behind: An Inquiry into Property Standards in the North’s Private Rented Sector

To read the full report, click here.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Housing in the North, the cross-party group that meets to discuss and advance northern-focussed housing policy in Parliament, came together this week to formally approved the final report of the APPG’s Inquiry into Property Standards in the North’s Private Rented Sector.

Researched and written on behalf of the group by the Northern Housing Consortium, the report – No Home Left Behind – represents 18 months of working in close collaboration with Local Authorities, Housing Associations, Combined Authorities, those representing both tenants and landlords, and third sector organisations.

No Home Left Behind concludes:

  • The Private Rented Sector regulatory framework is a comprehensive but complicated mixture of statute and case law that hinders enforcement and allows poor conditions to flourish.
  • The ability to identify landlords and poorly conditioned properties are essential to professionalising the sector and should be made central to efforts to reach minimum energy efficiency standards.
  • Local Authorities are held back in their ability to effectively use enforcement tools by severe budget constraints. Local enforcement teams should be maintained by properly resourced services with the right level of professionally qualified staff.
  • A long-term commitment to regeneration through a Housing Quality Investment Fund would support local collaborative partnership working to drive wider improvements in housing quality across tenures and bring a new focus to raising the standards of the North’s existing stock.

A range of recommendations are made to Government, covering:

  • The Regulatory Framework, including a review of current legislation, a national landlord database, and exploring the opportunities to link rental subsidy to property condition.
  • Tenant Empowerment, including the immediate introduction of the Renters Reform Bill and abolition of Section 21, and support for the growth of Social/Ethical Lettings Agencies.
  • Enforcing Standards, including increased and sustained funding for Local Authorities and greater local control over Selective Licensing.
  • Opportunities for the Future Role of the private rented sector, including the transformation of ECO funding to create a local authority led area-based scheme to tackle fuel poverty and the formation of a Housing Quality Investment Fund to level-up housing quality in the North and work towards a green recovery.

Ian Mearns MP, Chair of the APPG Housing in the North, commented:

“With the Inquiry we hoped to gain an understanding of the reasons for continued poor standards in parts of the Private Rented Sector in the North.

“Whilst many PRS tenants live in good quality accommodation, many others do not. And the APPG hopes it has developed a set of practical proposals to ensure the sector is a positive choice and experience for all households.

“We are grateful to all the organisations and individuals who contributed to this timely and important work”

Tracy Harrison, Chief Executive of the Northern Housing Consortium, commented:

“Housing stock in the North is often older, colder, and inefficient to heat. These types of properties form significant parts of the private rented sector and result in very poor conditions for tenants.

“At the same time, diminished resources in local authority enforcement teams, a complex regulatory environment and reluctance from renters to exercise their consumer powers, means Local Authorities are really facing an uphill struggle to try and stay ahead of the worst landlords.

“As Secretariat, the Northern Housing Consortium was delighted to work with, and on behalf of, the APPG for Housing in the North on this final report and suite of recommendations. Thanks must also go to Northern Housing Consortium members whose sizeable evidence and testimonies underpin the strength of this body of work”

To read the full report, click here.

The APPG Housing in the North provides a forum for Parliamentarians to discuss and advance housing and related policy across the three northern regions and seeks to ensure the needs and ambitions of northern communities are addressed in national housing policy development.

As Secretariat, the Northern Housing Consortium supports the APPG in facilitating a work programme that has in recent years concentrated on the regeneration of mixed tenure communities, housing an ageing population, and the impact of poor-quality housing on health and wellbeing.

To receive all the latest information on APPG activities, including future meetings, please visit:

https://www.northern-consortium.org.uk/services/policy/parliament/appg-for-housing-in-the-north/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Energy Angels Sponsor Blog – Restoring power in your empty homes

This year has been challenging for all of us, we’ve had to adapt in many different ways and adopt new processes to regain some normality. Some organisations have adapted quicker than others and will come out of this stronger, while others have closed shop and those experiences will leave a bad taste that will remain for a long time.

One of the biggest challenges has been contacting energy suppliers. Some call centres were completely closed, or call wait times were far beyond any reasonable time. Companies are now pushing online chat but that’s not ideal when you’re sat in a property with only a mobile phone.

This doesn’t help a voids/repairs departments when a property has just become vacant and requires action to get the power restored, so urgent work can be carried out by the repairs team.

Since 2006, we have approached the management of Energy for Social Housing from the landlord’s point of view, rather than the energy supplier’s. During the pandemic we maintained service levels for our clients without furloughing any colleagues, in fact due to the increasing amount of Social Landlords coming over to our free service, we’re delighted to have created new jobs during the pandemic and will continue to do so as Social Landlords continue to choose Energy Angels over other outdated services which have creaked and failed during lockdown.

Our service is underpinned by our 4 hour SLA, meaning any supply issues raised with us via our online portal are dealt with quickly and efficiently so that you can undertake any work and re-let the property without delay, reducing void periods.

You will also benefit from free energy credit from our choice of energy suppliers to cover the costs of keeping the power on when the property is empty. They will also install a smart meter at the same time, which will help improve efficiency in the property and minimise future issues.

We also appreciate the need to make sure your tenants are moving into their new homes on the cheapest possible rates, reducing the risk of anyone falling into financial hardship. With this in mind we can also create your own co-branded price comparison landing page to give your tenants when they move in to their property, giving them whole of market choice to find a cheaper tariff, reducing fuel poverty.

We’re delighted that so many Social Landlords trust us to manage their energy supplies, so they can concentrate helping their tenants and we’re always keen to help new landlords explore better ways of energy management for their empty and tenanted homes.

 

PRS to face ambitious energy targets?

A new Government consultation has set out an ambitious proposed trajectory for energy efficiency in the private rented sector.

The new consultation, from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), makes range of proposals, including that homes let in the private rented sector from 2025 should have to meet an energy efficiency rating of EPC C; with all homes in the private rented sector to reach this standard by 2028.

Other key policy proposals include:

  • Increasing the maximum investment amount, resulting in an average per-property spend of £4,700 under a £10,000 cap
  • Introducing a ‘fabric first’ approach to energy performance improvements

The NHC will be responding to the consultation, and is seeking member views. An online discussion has been arranged for 13.30 – 15.00 next Thursday, 5th November. NHC members can register to attend, free of charge, using MyNHC.

This member meeting follows a BEIS Local Authority Workshop today which the NHC assisted in coordinating northern attendees from its membership. At the workshop representatives from the Domestic Private Rented Sector Energy Efficiency team gave an overview of the above proposals, with specific focus given to suggestions covering compliance and enforcement policy. This included:

  • Introducing a new property compliance and exemptions database, new requirements regarding the provision of EPCs
  • Placing a requirement on letting agents and online property platforms
  • Strengthening local authority powers
  • Increasing the maximum fine level to £30,000
  • Strengthening tenant powers

NHC staff attended the workshop and will feedback at next week’s member consultation, before developing a response with attendees on behalf of the North.

Commenting, NHC Executive Director for Policy and Public Affairs Brian Robson said, “These are ambitious targets. We know the North’s PRS has high levels of non-decency and fuel poverty, so Government’s attention to this issue is welcome. However, we know that existing minimum targets have proven difficult to enforce – so it’s important Government get this right. I’d encourage members to contribute to our response.”

Members who cannot make the consultation event are invited to share their thoughts with NHC Senior Policy Advisor Karen Brown at Karen.brown@northern-consortium.org.uk by 27th November.

Connecting our members – Kate Maughan, Director of Member Engagement, NHC

As the NHC’s Director of Member Engagement, I’ve been reflecting on the extraordinary year we’ve had so far. So much has changed since March and the sector has responded swiftly and with impact.

Here at the NHC, we’ve made big changes too. We rapidly moved from traditional, face to face events into a full digital service, and we’ve really embraced the positives of this – our members are at the heart of everything we say and do, and we’ve strengthened our already high levels of engagement and brought you even more opportunities to connect with others on the issues that matter to you (a 151% increase on last year’s events, if you’re a numbers person!) And we did this quickly – within a week of lockdown, we moved our MMC conference online with a keynote speech from Christopher Pincher MP, secured webinars with the Regulator of Social Housing and the Housing Ombudsman, and hosted online roundtables to help housing management teams work through their immediate challenges. Our priority was, and it remains, supporting you and connecting our members at all levels.

The NHC team has worked incredibly hard to respond to the many emerging issues over the last 7 months and we’ve got a full programme of conferences, roundtables and networks to look forward to over the coming months.

And we’re still focusing on the many other issues that matter. The #OurNorth Net Zero campaign – through which we’re helping members to work through the challenges of decarbonising their housing stock – continues at pace, and we’re making sure the Northern housing voice is heard by those we seek to influence.

At our events and member meetings, we track key words and phrases so we can spot trends, challenges and opportunities to support you and, crucially, respond quickly. As you’d expect, in March and April those keywords focused on:

Move ahead to the Autumn, and our members’ focus has clearly evolved:

Although there is still uncertainty ahead, there’s also a clear future-focus emerging. Over the summer we launched our Future of Work programme which helps us to broaden our offer so we can engage right across executive management teams, and we’ve begun to examine some of what I think are the key questions for our sector:

  • How do we preserve our organisational culture when we’re all working remotely, and how do we immerse new staff in that culture?
  • How can we embrace the digital agenda so we can work more effectively and deliver better services to our customers?
  • How do we support our diverse staff teams through huge operational change?

We have formed the NHC:GEM Partnership to explore the future of work in the housing sector by engaging the talents of upcoming housing professionals from the GEM Programme. GEMs are recent graduates and graduate equivalent staff in the early stages of their careers in the housing sector, which we think makes this research unique: the future of work in the sector will be seen through the eyes of the next generation of leaders and people of influence.

The research is being steered by a group of NHC members. We’ll let you know when the phase 1 findings are ready to share: if you’d like to get involved in steering the research, please do let me know.

As ever, we want our engagement programme to continue to reflect your needs – so please let us know if there’s anything you’d like to see. We’re really looking forward to working with you in the coming months.

 

Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Demonstrator

On 8 July 2020, the Chancellor’s Summer Economic Update announced the UK-wide Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Demonstrator (SHDF Demonstrator) to support the decarbonisation of social housing over 2020/21, and to boost green jobs as part of the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan.

This £50 million programme will support social landlords to demonstrate innovative approaches to retrofitting social housing at scale. The SHDF Demonstrator upscales the Whole House Retrofit (WHR) Innovation Competition.

The SHDF Demonstrator project is an initial investment to learn lessons and catalyse innovation in retrofitting for the £3.8 billion Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, allocations for which will be determined at the forthcoming Spending Review.

Applications for the SHDF demonstrator will need to be from:

  • Local Authorities (LAs), including combined authorities, or
  • Consortia led by LAs for work on their retained Social Housing stock and/or Housing Association or Arm’s Length Management Organisations (ALMO) stock within their area.

This eligibility is only applicable to the SHDF demonstrator programme. The future Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (allocations for which will be announced at Spending Review in the Autumn) is intended to be open to all social housing landlords to directly access funding.

The Department of Business, Enterprise & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has launched the webpage for the SHDF Demonstrator which sets out indicative timelines for the administration of the scheme. BEIS will update the webpage in due course as more details become available.

Timeline

BEIS confirm that the competition will be formally launched in October 2020 with a relatively short deadline for bids in November 2020 (final dates to be confirmed).

  • Competition launch – October 2020
  • Deadline for bids – November 2020
  • Grant awards – December 2020

On 30 September, BEIS opened the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme for applications to access funding towards the cost of installing energy-efficient improvements. Full details of the scheme and eligibility is here.  Improvement measures must be completed by 31 March 2021.

 

 

NHC calls for chancellor to ‘rebuild, level-up and invest in people and places’

With plans for an Autumn Budget cancelled, the future of the multi-year Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) due this Autumn is uncertain.  Nevertheless, the NHC has used its CSR Representation to call on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to work with the North’s housing sector to deliver on his aims to rebuild, level-up and invest in people and places.

Setting out how housing in the North can help the Government deliver on its aims, the representation focuses on:

  • Rebuild: securing economic recovery and contributing to levelling-up by readying the North’s social housing for net zero. The NHC calls for the Chancellor to confirm and immediately release the pledge £3.8bn social housing decarbonisation fund, bringing forward investment planned for later in the decade.
  • Level-up: rebuilding capacity in local government in the North, to drive improvements in housing supply and quality. The NHC recommends the Chancellor announce a sustained real-terms increase in local government funding and a national centre of specialist housing and planning expertise, located in the North.
  • Invest in people in places: making a visible difference by investing in new affordable homes, and infrastructure to support new homes of all tenures. The NHC calls for a further round of the Brownfield Land Fund, an end to arbitrary 80/20 restrictions on housing infrastructure funds, and expansion of the affordable homes programme towards the sector consensus on funding, ensuring the fund is open to every part of the country and offers tenure flexibility.

 Commenting, NHC Chief Executive Tracy Harrison said, “The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has not yet been fully realised, but we know that it will not be experienced equally across every part of the country.  Housing has a track record of delivering effective economic stimulus. Investing in housing growth and quality in the North will contribute to economic recovery, provide visible evidence of levelling-up and prepare the region for net zero.”

The Treasury has not announced a firm schedule for future fiscal events.  The Chancellor has confirmed that delayed National Infrastructure Strategy will go ahead this Autumn; and we understand that there may be other spending announcements, potentially including a scaled-back one year spending round, in due course. Whenever the announcements come, NHC team will produce our usual on-the-day briefing to help members digest the key decisions and understand their implications for housing in the North.

‘No place left behind’ Commission – call for evidence

 The Create Streets Foundation has launched ‘No place left behind’, a Commission into prosperity and community placemaking. This is chaired by Toby Lloyd, the former Head of Policy at Shelter and Housing Advisor to the Prime Minister. Over the next year the Commission intends to come up with new ideas to help “level-up” England as part of the country’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, with a focus on approaches which allow communities to define and drive “levelling-up” for themselves.

The Commission has launched a call for evidence which closes on Monday 2nd November. The NHC will be responding, but members can also submit evidence using an online questionnaire, by leaving a 3 minute voicemail, emailing evidence, or taking part in a short telephone interview.

Karbon Homes Chief Executive, and NHC Board Member, Paul Fiddaman is one of the Commissioners. He comments:

 “We want to know about past and current projects to improve life in England’s neighbourhoods – what has worked well, what hasn’t, and what future projects and programmes need to do to succeed in getting a fairer and better deal for so-called left behind places. I do hope you’ll be able to share your experiences with us and share the Call for Evidence with others who might be interested. We’ll only get the right answers by speaking to the right people.” 

Changes to the Current Planning System – Things to look out for A Ward Hadaway Briefing for NHC Members

The Government’s white paper Planning for the Future has garnered much attention, but a second consultation, Changes to the Current Planning System, was released on the same day and proposes more immediate changes that, if approved, could be implemented before the end of the year through amendments to national planning guidance or by way of a written ministerial statement. Here, Carolyn Akerman, a solicitor working in the Property Team at Ward Hadaway, highlights some of the key issues you should be aware of.

  1. Changes to the Standard Methodology for housing need.

In order to meet the Government’s target of 300,000 homes a year, the new baseline will be the higher of 0.5% of existing housing stock or the latest projected average annual household growth over a 10 year period.

  • Using the proposed standard methodology many areas in the North will have a target less than their recent delivery. It is projected that only 50,000 new homes a year would be required under the new proposals being only 15% of the proposed national figures despite a quarter of England’s total population residing in the region. A more proportionate figure for the North would be 75,000 new homes a year.
  • The baseline can now be adjusted downwards for the first time if affordability is not an issue in that particular area which is likely to be a particular issue for the North as compared with other regions.
  • This should raise questions over whether and how these reductions in house numbers will impact on planning for growth or aspirations for growth.
  1. Small Sites Threshold

Currently sites of 9 dwellings or less are exempt under the NPPF from being required to provide affordable housing. It is proposed that this small site exception is extended= to sites delivering either up to 40 or 50 homes as a temporary measure for 18 months. The increase is not proposed for designated rural areas.

  • This could be detrimental for Registered Providers who rely on an affordable housing stream secured through such smaller sites. The consultation estimates an overall annual reduction of affordable housing delivery of 10-20% if the threshold is raised to 50.

 First Homes Delivery

First Homes are intended to be sold at a minimum of 30% discount to first time buyers whose annual income is less than £80,000 (outside of London) and ideally who have a local connection.

Further to the publication of the responses to the First Homes Consultation, the government is pressing ahead with the scheme and intends for a minimum of 25% of all affordable housing units secured through developer contributions to be First Homes to be sold at a minimum discount of 30%. Local Authorities would not be able to reduce this minimum but could increase it.

  • There is a real risk that First Homes could replace existing home ownership products, in particular shared ownership. For example, if a local policy requires 20% Shared Ownership Units (SOU) with the remainder of the affordable housing units being affordable or social rent, then the 25% priority will replace the SOU delivery.
  • Thought also needs to be given to the potential for First Homes to eliminate the provision of affordable home ownership products for those who would not qualify for First Homes for example because they are not first-time buyers.
  • Further thought should also be given in respect of 100% affordable housing sites which may currently receive grant in respect of the entire site as it is unclear whether grant funding will be available in respect of First Homes and those RPs who are not accustomed to delivering discounted sale products may need the support or participation of third parties when it comes to delivery of those units.

The consultation for Changes to the Current Planning System ends on 1 October 2020, if you would like to share your views on the document please do so by email to karen.brown@nhc.org.uk.

Ward Hadaway will give an opening briefing and be available to answer questions at a joint meeting with the Northern Housing Consortium for members looking at the full Planning for the Future White Paper consultation (deadline 29 October 2020). For more information and to confirm your attendance please do so following the below link:

Planning White Paper – NHC & Ward Hadaway Briefing and Consultation

Wednesday 14th October, 10.00 – 11.30, online via Microsoft Teams

Book Now: https://www.mynhc.org.uk/event/general?id=Planning_White_Paper_Briefing_and_Consultation3252702625

 

 

 

 

Locata’s website redesign includes new video page  

Locata has redesigned its company website and introduced a new page for videos demonstrating its housing software.

The new page currently has four HPA2 videos that show how the dashboard and help sites work. Each video is just three or four minutes long so that Locata users can easily get the information they require simply and effectively.

More HPA2 videos will be uploaded over the coming weeks and months.

The Locata Video page also has eight Housing Related Support videos that between them demonstrate the whole HRS system.

This part of the page is password protected so that only genuine Locata customers can see all the unique benefits and innovations within the HRS system.

If you would like to access this part of the video page, simply contact Locata direct and we will give you a password.

The Locata Video page is completed with a video showing the whole of the Virtual NUG that broadcast as a webinar on July 3.

The website allows fast navigation to key information about the company – including how we work and details about our products.

The News page has also been redesigned to allow even simpler access to the most up to date information about Locata and its regular innovations and launches.

The new website still contains the downloadable toolkits developed by Andy Gale that are designed for helping local authorities develop their work and approach to homelessness prevention.

We are very proud of the new website. If you have a moment, why not check it out here https://locatahousingservices.org.uk

The new Home Page for the Locata business website.

The video page showing how Locata’s software works

The redesigned News page

Software One Guest Blog – Three ways we can help you adapt to this uncertain new reality

2020 has challenged public sector organisations like no other. From providing local services with a remote workforce, to having to do even more with reduced manpower and tight budgets – it’s been tough.

Yet many have stepped into the challenge and transformed the way they are serving members of the public. While the first six months of the year could be described as surviving, now is the time to reset and put in place agile solutions to ensure public sector can thrive moving forward, regardless of what may come.

Below are three ways we can help you adapt to this uncertain new reality we find ourselves in:

Cloud Accelerator Workshops

SoftwareONE can help make your remote workforce more efficient, secure, protected and compliant, putting your IT team back in control, with a range of Microsoft-funded workshops. The workshops cover:

  • Secure Remote Work
  • Security
  • Compliance
  • Identity
  • Teams Calling
  • Windows Virtual Desktop

Learn more about these Cloud Accelerator workshops and see if you are eligible for funding. These are a great way of resetting and improving your remote working strategy at no cost to you. Contact your SoftwareONE account manager or info.gb@softwareONE.com to discuss these further.

Cloud for public sector webinars
SoftwareONE has teamed up with Microsoft to create a two-part webinar series on how local and regional government organisations can use cloud technologies to become more agile and what Microsoft funding is available to support you on this journey. Again, there are ways you can drive your cloud strategy forward despite budget restrictions. Click the links below to register and learn more.

7 October 2020, 10am – Part 1: Disaster Recovery & Cloud Adoption frameworks

14 October 2020, 10am – Part 2: Remote Working, Cost Optimisation and Governance

The Remote Working Reset
We recently held a customer roundtable on to the topic of the Remote Working Reset, in which we were joined by the Organisational Change Lead at City of Lincoln Council to discuss how they have enabled remote working and what their current and future priorities are. If you missed it, you can watch it on demand > Remote Working Reset.