Will a Government with a Strong Majority End Social Housing Uncertainty?

A new government with a big majority should present the opportunity to clear away much of the uncertainty affecting many policy areas. Housing must surely be at the top of the agenda.

The Social Housing Green Paper published in August 2018 promised a new deal for social housing based on five themes:

  • ensuring homes are safe and decent
  • effective resolution of complaints
  • empowering residents and strengthening the regulator
  • tackling stigma and celebrating thriving communities
  • expanding supply and supporting home ownership.

Hopefully, presenting legislation to the new parliament based on the green paper consultation will be a priority. Of the five themes in the ‘new deal,’ you could argue that only expanding supply has seen any significant action with the scrapping of councils’ borrowing cap.

Currently, the Decent Homes Standard remains just an idea and there has been no government funding to bring the 13% of social homes that do not meet the existing standard up to scratch. It’s also questionable whether tenants in some areas have a significantly stronger voice than before.

The supply of social housing needs to be expanded. But we also need to address how they are built, how they can be made more environmentally sustainable and how they can be made easy and inexpensive to maintain.

Planning is another potential pinch-point in the supply of more social homes. Local authority planning teams need to be resourced properly to process applications efficiently.

Wait for Change or Make it Happen?

Increasing the supply of social housing isn’t the whole story. We know that many residents haven’t enjoyed a great experience when it comes to repair and maintenance (R&M).

It remains to be seen how much Brexit will continue be a distraction and how much attention housing will receive. Even after the Withdrawal Bill is passed there are many details to be resolved about our future relationship with the EU. And housing isn’t the only policy area that will be competing for parliamentary time.

There are some things only governments can do (such as appointing a strengthened watchdog). But there are many other improvements to the resident experience that can be made by local authorities and housing associations working with their R&M partner.

Tenants can have more influence over how services are delivered, and homes can be upgraded and improved through a total asset management approach. In any case, changes will have to be enacted at a local level and we can start that process right now through enlightened R&M partnership working.