Written by IFF Research

The Social Housing White Paper – what’s changing?

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The Social Housing White Paper is here, and we have spent the past month coming to grips with what’s new, what’s changing, what’s staying the same, and what’s missing entirely. Although the white paper isn’t just about The Regulator, a good slice of the impact to landlords will be coming from that ministerial department. At the ‘In Conversation with… The Regulator of Social Housing’ webinar, our guest speaker Will Perry, Director of Strategy at The Regulator, set out some key changes he’s expecting from the forthcoming legislation.

Serious detriment test will go away

In the white paper, there is a proposal for legislation to remove the serious detriment test and introduce routine inspections for landlords with more than 1,000 homes every four years. The Regulator may carry out inspections at more frequent intervals where a routine inspection finds a breach or risk of breach of the standards.

Inspections… back to the future?

Will assured delegates that inspections would be back, but without the key lines of enquiry (KLOEs) that you may remember from the Audit Commission days. The new inspection process will be risk-based, with a focus on accountability and transparency. The Regulator expects all landlords to be able to demonstrate a deep understanding of their residents wants and needs and show how that knowledge is embedded within a landlord’s day-to-day operations and overall strategy.

Tenant Satisfaction Measures (TSMs)

Watch for “TSMs” to rapidly overtake “KPIs” in your organisation’s vocabulary. These indicators of tenant satisfaction are meant to measure the things that matter most to residents, enable comparisons between landlords, and to influence how The Regulator prioritises and regulates the sector.  So far though, the questions and response codes have not been specified – watch this space.

Review the consumer standards and a new code of practice

Some of the changes expected to the consumer standards have been set out within the white paper, and other parts of the standards are being reviewed to ensure it delivers guidance as robust as the day it was originally written. Will carefully explained that the consumer standards code of practice is not to be viewed as a checklist – and expressed clearly that checklists aren’t what The Regulator is there for. The code is intended to provide additional detail and context to clarify and amplify the standards it accompanies.

More integration with other agencies

The Regulator will work more closely with the Health and Safety Executive, and in particular, the Building Safety Regulator. This new regulator will oversee the safe design, construction and occupation of high-risk buildings so that residents are safe and feel safe. It will be independent and give expert advice to local regulators, landlords and building owners, the construction and building design industry, and to residents.

The Regulator of Social Housing will also work closely with The Housing Ombudsman, with the Ombudsman dealing with individual resident issues and complaints and referring what they believe to be systemic issues with a landlord to The Regulator for assessment and/or action.

Who will be your nominated individuals?

Will explained that the requirement for “nominated individuals” set out in the social housing white paper, should be a person of influence within the organisation.  They will have responsibility and accountability for safety, complaints and regulatory compliance. During the Q&A session, Will explained that the job title of the nominated individual has not been specified because different governance structures will have different roles that could take this responsibility, for example, a Director of Housing in a local authority, or a Chief Executive at a housing association.

Decent Homes + Decarbonisation

The Decent Homes Standard set out a trajectory for delivery that included targets up to 2020 and is due to be re-written and refreshed. Will expects the decarbonisation of the sector (and any milestones or targets toward that goal) will be published in the new Decent Homes Standard.

Next steps

Will covered more topics in depth during the webinar, including next steps The Regulator is expecting to take, and what to expect for landlord inspections.  He answered questions from the audience and responded to key issues such as timescales for implementation, the role of resident engagement, and how benchmarking against the TSMs will work in practice.

Watch the webinar for more details and check out our Definitive Guide to the Social Housing White Paper to ensure you’re prepared for all the changes afoot.