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.