This Month In Social Housing: February 2024

It only seems like yesterday that we were taking down the Christmas decorations but somehow, it’s March already! Those of us who work in this sector will be more than aware that the wheels of social housing never stop turning and as such, it’s easy to miss developments, news events, and general shifts in the narrative if your attention is on other matters. With this in mind (and because we know you’ve all been busy keeping the aforementioned wheels of social housing turning), we’ve complied yet another of our handy news round-ups to keep you in the loop. So, close that email client for 10 minutes or so, put the phone on silent and have a quick read through our summary of what we deem the biggest stories from the sector this month…

Near 49% Increase in No-fault Eviction Proceedings in 2023

The number of court-ordered evictions due to Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions surged by nearly 49% in 2023, reaching 9,457 households in England, according to homelessness charity Shelter. It’s report based on government data revealed that since 2019, a total of 26,311 households have faced eviction under this law. Furthermore, 30,230 landlords initiated Section 21 eviction proceedings in 2023, a 28% increase from the previous year. Shelter suggests that many tenants vacate before court proceedings, masking the true extent of the issue. The charity’s research also highlights that over a third of tenants take longer than two months to secure new housing after eviction notices, potentially leading to homelessness. Despite promises to abolish no-fault evictions in 2019, the government’s Renters (Reform) Bill has yet to materialise fully. Critics accuse the government of delaying vital reforms, while Whitehall maintains that the bill will create a fairer rental market.

Starmer Says Labour Will ‘Change The Face of Housing’ if Elected

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has promised substantial housing reform if his party comes to power in the upcoming general election. Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Housing presidential dinner earlier this month, Starmer emphasised the urgent need to transform housing into a launching pad for people’s aspirations rather than a barrier. The Labour leader’s vision includes reducing homelessness, enhancing affordability, and improving housing conditions in both social and private sectors. Highlighting alarming statistics, including record child homelessness and substandard living conditions for millions, Starmer underscored the societal cost of inadequate housing. Labour’s proposed measures encompass extending tenant rights, constructing 1.5 million homes, prioritising social and affordable housing, and implementing planning reforms. Starmer also stressed the importance of building a future-oriented housing landscape to enable individuals to plan and prosper, asserting that addressing housing issues is fundamental to the nation’s progress.

Landlords Warned by Ombudsman to Prepare for Statutory Complaint-Handling Code

The Housing Ombudsman has issued a warning to landlords, urging them to prepare for the enforcement of a new complaint-handling code starting April 1. Developed jointly with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, this code aims to establish uniform standards for efficient and fair complaint procedures in the social housing sector. While the Housing Ombudsman already adheres to a code, this initiative extends its application to all local government functions for the first time, eliminating a two-tier system. Landlords must now demonstrate compliance with the code’s requirements, including submitting self-assessments alongside tenant satisfaction measures by specified deadlines. The self-assessment reports must also be publicly accessible on landlords’ websites. Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway stresses the importance of this statutory code in fostering a positive complaints culture and improving services for residents. emphasising the need for landlords to allocate resources and enhance their complaint-handling practices. “Landlords should see the release of this code as an opportunity to reflect on their complaint-handling and to make improvements where necessary to deliver better services to residents” said Mr Blakeway.

Social Housing Investment Could Add More Than £50bn to Economy Say NHF and Shelter

Research commissioned by Shelter and the National Housing Federation (NHF) indicates that investing in social housing could yield substantial economic benefits, including a £12 billion profit for taxpayers. According to the research, building 90,000 social homes annually would generate £51.2 billion net (£86.5 billion gross) in economic and social advantages over 30 years. The report highlights that within three years, the investment would break even and return £37.8 billion to the economy, primarily by stimulating the construction industry. These figures are based on various savings and additional tax revenues, including those from reduced homelessness and increased employment. With England experiencing a shortage of social homes and a growing waiting list, both organisations urge political parties to prioritise social housing to address the housing crisis effectively. Shelter chief executive, Polly Neate, said: “homelessness is a political choice, with a simple solution but It doesn’t have to be this way. A safe and secure social home will give people a place to thrive – improving their health and access to work and education”.

Our handy round-up of the biggest news stories from within the social housing sector from the past month is back for February...

RSH Warns That Landlords Have ‘Some Way To Go’ in Meeting New Consumer Standards

The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) warns that landlords are not yet prepared to meet new consumer standards, with inspections imminent. Jonathan Walters, RSH’s deputy chief executive, highlights that many landlords lack updated information on property conditions, predicting that most will receive lower grades under the revised standards. The new regime, replacing in-depth assessments, will grade housing associations and councils every four years based on home conditions and tenant treatment. While housing associations will receive governance and viability grades, councils will only get a ‘C’ grade. Around 400 landlords will face inspections, with the first judgements expected in June. The RSH also is also set to be given powers for emergency actions and unlimited fines against non-compliant landlords. These changes follow heightened scrutiny post-Grenfell and growing negative media reports on housing conditions following the death of Awaab Ishak. Despite nervousness among councils, the RSH aims for collaborative engagement, doubling its workforce to ensure effective regulation.

Well, that’s This Month In Social Housing all wrapped up for February. We’re all off to prepare ourselves for what Jeremy Hunt’s upcoming budget may have in store for the sector and how that’ll affect our customers (and their tenants). Fear not though as we’ll be back here around about the same time next month to do this whole ‘handy news round-up’ thing all over again. Until then though, adeus!