This Month In Social Housing: June 2023

Summer is well and truly here and we know this because (a) in typical British style, we’ve had a week and a half of sunshine that has subsequently been replaced by grey skies and the odd spot of drizzle, and (b) CIH Housing 2023 happened and now everyone in social housing is now drained of what little energy they had having gone all out preparing for and attending the event. If the latter resonates with you then you’ll be forgiven for failing to keep abreast of all the latest news from the sector. Thankfully though, we’ve picked out five of the most pertinent social housing stories from the past month and provided you with a brief synopsis of each in the latest edition of This Month In Social Housing…

RSH and Housing Ombudsman to Take Strike Action Over Pay & Workloads

Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) and Housing Ombudsman staff have announced a week-long strike action due to a dispute over pay and workloads. The decision comes after Unite union members at the RSH were balloted in March as to whether strike action would be implemented. The union, representing workers from both organisations, stated that neither group had received a formal pay increase offer. Despite inflation running at 11.4% according to the Retail Price Index, both employers have refused to pay more than the Treasury’s recommended 4.5% pay increase. Unite argued that this amounts to a significant pay cut in real terms, following a 2% increase last year. Workers also complained about increased workloads resulting from new regulations and having to juggle multiple responsibilities whilst mentoring new employees. Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “Our members play a critical role in resolving disputes and ensuring the highest standards in social housing. It is unforgivable that they are facing yet another real-term pay cut, when the employers here clearly can afford to commit to a fair pay rise.”

Inquiry Into Social Housing Finance Leads to Clashes Between Landlords and MPs

Landlords and MPs clashed over potential rent increases during the first evidence session of the government inquiry into social housing finance and sustainability on June 12. The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee initiated inquiry discussed the issue of shared ownership and the government’s proposed infrastructure levy. A significant point of contention was the necessity for a new rent settlement with the government after the current arrangement ends in 2025. Housing association leaders argued that the existing settlement does not account for inflationary pressures and called for a quick agreement on a new settlement. Some MPs however expressed concerns about the impact of rent increases on struggling social housing tenants, while housing association representatives emphasised the need for incremental changes to secure necessary investments for building safety fixes and quality housing.

Two-thirds of HAs Have More Tenants in Arrears Than During Pandemic

Research commissioned by Mobysoft reveals that two-thirds of housing associations currently have more tenants are in rent arrears now than during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey, which canvassed 100 senior executives, revealed that 66% of respondents believe that rent arrears have increased. The poll also indicated that 33% of housing associations are implementing flexible payment plans or other measures to mitigate arrears, such as rent or service charge holidays. Additionally, 32% are establishing hardship funds, while 29% are partnering with food banks. The survey warned of a potential “rent arrears epidemic” as more tenants are falling into debt for the first time. Among the challenges faced by landlords, income collection, rent arrears, the social housing rent cap, and economic uncertainty were mentioned. Get your own copy of the Balancing Act: Future-Proofing Social Housing report via our Guides section.

Poll Suggests Almost Half of Tory Voters in Britain Support the Construction of Social Housing Over Homes for Sale

Almost half of Conservative voters in Britain support the construction of social housing over homes for sale, according to a recent YouGov poll commissioned by the National Housing Federation (NHF). The survey found that 52% of Conservative voters believe there is an inadequate supply of social housing. Additionally, 48% of these voters believe that the government should prioritise increasing levels of social housing construction, compared to 28% who think homes for sale should be prioritised. Alongside the poll, the NHF released a report advocating for a long-term plan to significantly increase the number of affordable and social homes built in the next decade. The findings indicate a broad consensus among different age groups and political affiliations in favour of prioritising social housing, with the strongest support coming from voters over 50.

RSH Appoints First Chief of Regulatory Engagement

The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has appointed its first chief of regulatory engagement. Kate Dodsworth, currently serving as the director of consumer regulation at RSH, will take on the new role with immediate effect. With a strong background in the housing sector, having previously held positions at Gateway Housing, the National Housing Federation, and Optivo, Dodsworth will lead the expanding frontline regulation team, overseeing both economic and consumer matters. The RSH has been working on enhancing its regulatory approach, including implementing consumer standards inspections for large social landlords every four years. Dodsworth’s appointment is seen as vital in delivering this new regulatory strategy effectively.

That’s us done for another month. We hope you enjoyed this monthly bitesize bulletin of all the top social housing sector stories that you might have missed. If so, then do feel free to bandy this article about your various social media appendages. We’re all off for a nice lie down in a darkened room for a bit whilst we recharge our batteries post-CIH Housing 2023. Fear not though as we’ll be back to do this all again, same time, same place next month. Until then though, sayonara!

Dean Quinn
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