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industry news


Institute calls for introduction of new standards in private rented sector


New minimum standards should be introduced for the private rented sector and landlords should receive tax incentives for signing up to accreditation schemes, the Chartered Institute of Housing has said. The Institute made the calls in its budget


submission to the Government. It said more needs to be done to improve the quality of private homes, including a new set of minimum standards for landlords that covers both property conditions and housing management. It also called for tax incentives for private


landlords who sign up to an accreditation scheme and new measures to allow local authorities to enforce standards. It also calls for the regulation of letting agents to stamp out poor practice. Gavin Smart, deputy chief executive of the


Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “The private rented sector has grown considerably since the 1990s and is now the second largest tenure after home ownership. Though many landlords provide good quality housing, standards are highly inconsistent and at the lower end of the market they can be very poor.


Improvements


Smart added: “We think more can be done to improve standards for the millions of tenants in private rented accommodation, including the introduction of a set of minimum standards and other measures which incentivise providing good quality accommodation. He concluded: “We expect that the large


number of landlords who are already providing good quality homes and services will already be operating at a level at or above the minimum


standards we envisage.” CIH’s budget submission also asks for more


funding to secure the development of new homes for affordable and social rent. That follows its projections published in January that 250,000 homes for social rent will have been lost to the sector between 2012 and 2020 – as a result of Right to Buy sales and properties being converted to lets on affordable rents. And it calls for a reversal of the decision to


lower the benefit cap, which its research revealed will hit 116,000 families across the UK. In its submission CIH also calls for:


• New support for local authorities to become major house builders – including exemption from the rent reduction in exchange for a commitment to build homes;


• The development of a new funding model for supported housing – including a long-term commitment on top-up funding to give certainty to providers; and


• More loan funding for regeneration – increasing the current £140 million by £300 million.


Regulator may scrap VFM self- assessments


The Homes and Communities Agency is considering scrapping its requirement for social landlords to produce and publish annual value for money self-assessments. Housing associations in England have


been required to produce VFM self- assessments since 2013. They have varied enormously in content and quality and resulted in a number of downgrades. Now the regulator thinks it can instead rely on a set of common “metrics” to measure efficiency. The HCA is planning to launch a


consultation in April on changes to its Value for Money Standard. This could either place less emphasis on the self- assessments or remove the need for them altogether. It is understood the regulator believes


holding conversations with boards and relying on widely agreed measures of efficiency could provide a clearer picture of an organisation’s performance on value for money than relying on self-assessments. Writing recently for Inside Housing


magazine, Julian Ashby, chair of the HCA Regulation Committee, said “We would like to shift our focus away from the analysis of value for money self-assessments to seeking assurance that boards have a clear and demonstrable strategic grip on the value for money of their businesses and more solid reliance on useful metrics to assess their progress.” Mr Ashby’s comments come as a


'Unfit' council home payouts and legal fees hit £35m in five years


A BBC investigation has found councils in England have paid out more than £35m in compensation and legal fees in the past five years to tenants living in "unfit" council homes. In total almost 11,000 disrepair claims have


been brought against councils for issues such as damp, leaks and damage. This amounts to a 68 per cent increase in the number of disrepair claims brought against councils since 2011/12. Despite the figures, the Local Government


Association (LGA) said councils were doing a "great job in difficult circumstances". Seventy five local authorities disclosed they


had paid out £35.4m to deal with disrepair claims. In London, Southwark and Lambeth Councils paid out the most in compensation and legal costs since 2011/12, with both authorities paying out more than £10m each. Councils often pay out more in legal fees than


in compensation, as they are usually ordered to pay the legal costs of both parties when they


lose cases. For example, Birmingham City Council paid out £200,000 in compensation to tenants over the last five years but spent an additional £1.5m on legal costs. The latest local government budget data


shows that the amount earmarked for maintaining and repairing council properties has remained relatively stable at about £1.7 billion a year. Councillor Martin Tett, LGA housing


spokesman, said: "The number of 'non-decent' council homes has plummeted in the last 20 years from 746,000 in 2006 to 80,000 in 2016. "This is a 90 per cent drop and shows councils


are doing a great job in difficult circumstances to ensure homes are at a decent standard. Councils desperately need the powers and access to funding to improve existing housing stock, replace homes and reinvest in building more of the genuine affordable homes our communities desperately need."


working group of landlords continue to develop a ‘sector scorecard’ to provide a consistent measurement of efficiency. Mr Ashby said this is “not without difficulty” but he is “encouraged by the steps the sector is taking to deliver a common metrics platform.” This will make comparing associations’ performance a much easier exercise.


“We would like to shift our focus away from the analysis of value for money self-assessments to seeking assurance that boards have a clear and demonstrable strategic grip on the value for money of their businesses and more solid reliance on useful metrics to assess their progress”


www.housingmmonline.co.uk | HMM March 2017 | 11


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