This Month In Social Housing: April 2024

The sun is out, the football season is drawing to a close, and the snooker is on the telly – all of which means that it must be May! As always in the hectic world of social housing, things don’t slow down just because we might when beginning to think about our impending summer getaways. If you’ve been either idly daydreaming about an all-inclusive in the Seychelles or (more likely) rushed off your feet so much that you’ve missed some of the big news stories from within the sector then don’t worry because here’s another one of our handy social housing news round-ups…

MPs Demand Clarity on Sunak’s ‘British Homes for British Workers’ Plan

MPs have requested clarification from the government regarding its plan to prioritise UK nationals in social housing allocation. Clive Betts, chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, expressed concerns that the proposed introduction of qualification tests might increase homelessness. The government’s proposal includes six new tests, including a ‘UK connection’ and an income test. Betts requested details on the potential impact, including the number of affected households and the consideration of exemptions, particularly for vulnerable groups. Emphasising the need for increased social housing, Betts urged the government to address concerns about the fairness of the proposed tests. Currently, social housing allocation prioritises those in need, but the proposed changes have sparked criticism from housing sector bodies and charities, labeling them as scapegoating. The government defends its plan as a means to prioritise locals and prevent abuse of the system.

NHF and CIH Request Longer Transition to Compulsory Housing Qualifications

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and National Housing Federation (NHF) are urging the government to extend the transition period for compulsory housing qualifications. The new Competence and Conduct Standard, effective from April 2025, mandates Level 4 or 5 qualifications for around 25,000 housing managers. The CIH suggests a three-year transition, emphasising a smoother implementation to maintain service delivery. It also calls for additional funding for local authorities and exemptions for certain service providers. The NHF advocates for a five-year transition to alleviate costs and allow adaptation. Concerns include recruitment and retention challenges, especially for smaller housing associations. Both sector bodies seek clarity on qualification equivalencies, fast-tracking experienced staff, and exemptions for those nearing retirement. With the government considering responses, both bodies aim for feasible measures ensuring optimal outcomes for residents amidst the sector’s challenges.

Campaigners Warn That Renters Reform Bill Will Fail

Campaigners have criticised the Renters (Reform) Bill, warning it will fail in its current state as it heads for its third reading in parliament. The Renters Reform Coalition accuses the government of repeatedly diluting the bill, weakening its impact on renters’ rights. Despite lobbying efforts, the coalition claims the bill lacks substance, especially in ending no-fault evictions under Section 21. New amendments, including a court readiness assessment and extended notice periods, are deemed insufficient. Advocates have urged stronger protections, such as longer eviction notices and enhanced safeguards against landlord actions. Darren Baxter of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has called for amendments prioritising tenant rights over landlord interests. Landlords, however, have supported the bill, emphasising its provisions for a fairer rental sector. Levelling-up minister Jacob Young defended the bill, asserting that it “aligns with manifesto promises and the government’s commitment to tenant-landlord fairness”.

NHF and Crisis Urge Government to Reconsider Plans to Fine and Imprison Rough Sleepers

The National Housing Federation (NHF), Crisis, and other organisations have appealed to Home Secretary James Cleverly to reconsider plans to penalise and imprison rough sleepers. They argue that provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill, permitting fines and arrests for rough sleeping, contradict the government’s strategy to end homelessness. Critics fear such measures will deter individuals from seeking assistance, exacerbating dangers faced by rough sleepers. Backbench Conservative MPs, alongside homelessness charities, oppose the bill, seeking amendments prioritising support over punishment. Despite government claims that the bill targets anti-social behavior, concerns persist over its potential impact on vulnerable individuals. The Home Office maintains that the measures aim to address disruptive behavior rather than penalizing homelessness. As debates continue in parliament, stakeholders urge for a compassionate approach aligned with efforts to end rough sleeping by 2024.

Report Suggests Government Policy Makes Migrants, Refugees, and Asylum Seekers ‘Destitute By Design’

A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) on poverty and migration has condemed UK immigration policies for deliberately driving migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees into destitution. Labelled “destitute by design,” in the report, these policies fail to deter migration while burdening local authorities and service providers. The report highlights inadequate support systems, including limited access to housing and benefits, exacerbating poverty and homelessness. Recommendations urge for shorter immigration processes, the right to work for asylum seekers, and increased support for vulnerable groups. Co-chairs of the APPGs emphasised the need for a humane immigration system that respects human rights and supports societal needs. However, the Home Office has defended its approach, emphasising border control and cost reduction. Concerns persist however over rising rough sleeping among refugees, prompting calls for immediate government action.

And that’s your lot for this month! Hopefully we’ve been able to provide you with an easily digestible at-a-glance rundown of the biggest stories in social housing from the past 30 days. We’re all off to prepare for the long weekend by purchasing copious amounts of BBQ foodstuffs (and then hoping with every last sinew of our being that it doesn’t rain), but fear not as we’ll be back to do this news bulletin all over again in a month’s time. Until then though, adios!