This Month In Social Housing: January 2023

Welcome to the first instalment of our new monthly news-round-up feature This Month In Social Housing. Easing into view via your web browser of choice the last Friday of each month, this short, sharp bulletin will bring you details of all the major happenings within the sector in a nice, easily digestible format. So, without further ado, let’s dive in to January shall we?

Government Issues Damp & Mould Response

Following the tragic passing of Awaab Ashak in Rochdale and the media furore surrounding the events, The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove MP, has set out the actions the government is taking in response to the coroner’s report into the toddler’s death. Of the four areas of action proposed, perhaps the most pertinent are the government’s commitment to reviewing the Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS) and plans to introduce an amendment to the Social Housing Regulation Bill to provide powers to publish a policy statement on tackling serious hazards in social housing, including damp and mould. To learn more about damp and mould and how it affects the social housing sector read our Damp & Mould: A Quick Guide Feature.

Net Zero Review Emphasises Need for Energy Efficient Homes

The independent review of the government’s approach to delivering its net zero target first commissioned in September 2022 has now been published and has highlighted the need for housing providers (including social landlords) to provide energy efficient homes. The review, carried out by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Chris Skidmore MP, also shone focus on the vagaries of the current planning system which, it has been suggested, often prevents housing associations from accessing funding schemes such as the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund. The wide-ranging review contains no less than 129 recommendations, many of which directly concern social housing providers. For further information, you can read the full review on the government website.

NHF and CIH Join Calls for Government to Introduce ‘Social Energy Tariff’

The National Housing Federation (NHF) and Chartered Institution of Housing (CIH) have joined a number of charities and non-profit organisations who, in an open letter to the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, have urged the government to legislate for a change in energy bills for “those in greatest need to ensure they are able to live in their homes comfortably”.

Scottish Social Landlords Expect to Borrow More

The Scottish Housing Regulator’s (SHR) has published its Summary of Registered Social Landlord Financial Projections: 2022-23 – 2026-27 report in which it was revealed that Scottish social landlords expect to increase loan debt to £6.67bn by the end of 2026-27. This increase represents a net rise of £1.3bn across the five-year period and is somewhat higher than the £6.3bn forecast in the 2021 returns to the end of 2025-26. The news comes at a time when Scottish RSLs are having to contend with a number of additional pressures including the need to comply with Holyrood’s Housing 2040 strategy and an incoming raft of tighter financial regulations. Learn more about the challenges faced by Scottish social landlords and potential approaches to overcoming them in our recent How Scottish RSLs can Mitigate Financial Risks in the Current Economic Climate report.

New Housing Minister Required

Last but not least, the UK government is on the lookout its sixth (SIXTH!) incumbent to the role of housing minister following Lucy Frazer MP moving on to the role of culture secretary after just four months in the job. Frazer only took over the housing minister role in October after Rishi Sunak was named prime minister, yet her 105 day spell stint makes her somewhat of a veteran. No fewer than five different Tory politicians held the role in 2022: Christopher Pincher, Stuart Andrew, Marcus Jones and Lee Rowley all had the role before Frazer took over.

Well, that’s January done and dusted. We hope you enjoyed our snappy round-up of what we reckon are the five most noteworthy developments in the world of social housing – if you disagree with our choices then hit us up on Twitter and let us know your thoughts. We’ll be back at the same time next month with more of the same so be sure to head back here for another edition of This Month In Social Housing. Ciao!

Dean Quinn