Industry news

• Lettings of social and affordable rented homes in England fell by almost 11 per cent last year, to their lowest level since statistics were first reported in 2007/08. Official figures showed that housing associations and councils let 334,602 homes for below market rents in 2016/17, down from 374,586 in the previous year.

• Karen Buck’s private members bill, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill passed its second reading in the Commons and has now moved on to its committee stage for line-by-line scrutiny. If it becomes law, it should improve the standard of privately rented homes and make it easier for legal action to be taken against rogue landlords. Similar legal provisions already exist in Wales.

• Newham Council in East London has won an appeal to enforce a £22,500 fine against property company Your Rooms London after 14 people, including babies and children, were found renting a damp and dangerous two-storey terrace in Stratford last July. The council said there was “a complete absence of fire safety equipment and a failure to provide a gas safety certificate”. It said: “The general conditions in the property were described as filthy and damp, and at least one tenant was suffering ill health as a direct result.” The house was split into five bedrooms, each one let at around £500 per month or £2,500 a month for the whole property.

• The Fire Protection Association has warned there could be hundreds of people working as fire risk assessors across the country despite them not being accredited by any of the four approved bodies. This raises concerns over their competence and levels of training received, as well as the standards of fire safety being applied across the housing sector at a time when there has never been a sharper focus on the issue.

• Consumer group Which? is demanding Government action to improve the safety of domestic white goods, as analysis of fire data has shown faults in them are causing more than 60 fires in UK homes every week. Faulty washing machines and tumble dryers are the most high-risk appliances in the home, causing 35 per cent of fires over a two-year period. Cookers and ovens, dishwashers then fridges, freezers and fridge-freezers were also listed as high-risk, all causing around 10 per cent of fires in the same period.

• One of the "immediate steps" they want the Government to tackle is the estimated one million faulty Whirlpool tumble dryers still in UK homes. Fluff catching on a heating element in dryers has been blamed for 750 Whirlpool dryer fires since 2015, and a door mechanism fault is believed to have started a fire which killed two men in Wales in 2014. Which? labled the product safety regime "antiquated" and called for "an easily accessible, comprehensive database of recalled products".

Big hitters departing key housing positions

jobs they have held in the housing sector for a long time. David Orr is standing down from his role as


chief executive of the National Housing Federation in September, having been in post since 2005. Before he joined the NHF, Orr was previously chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and the Newlon Housing Trust. Earlier in his career, he also worked for homelessness charity Centrepoint. Diana Warwick, chair of the NHF board, said: “It

has been an absolute pleasure to work with David and on behalf of the board I want to thank him for his extraordinary contribution to the housing association movement. Over the past 12 years David has championed the independence and ambitions of housing associations, and their critical role in tackling the housing crisis.” Mr Orr was a strong lobbyist for the independent

role and work of housing associations. This meant he sometimes clashed with Government ministers but one of his most controversial moves was to urge

he early months of 2018 got off to an eventful start with announcements that several big names are leaving influential

HAs to sign up to a voluntary deal on the right to buy back in 2015. Sir Edward Lister, chair of Homes England,

added: “David Orr is an industry leader who has shaped the debate on affordable housing in recent years. He has overseen major changes in the ambitions and make-up of housing associations and he can retire proud in the knowledge that the sector is ready to make a significant contribution to addressing the housing shortage in this country.”

CHANGE AT THE REGULATOR Another big hitter to announce his departure was Julian Ashby, the chair of the Regulator of Social Housing. Mr Ashby stood down from his role at the regulator in January, a few months before his scheduled retirement in March, enabling him to join the 14,000-home Paradigm HA as its chair from April 2018. Mr Ashby has been chair of the Regulation

Committee since it became part of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) in 2012. He oversaw a complete revision of the regulatory framework in 2015 and the introduction of in-depth assessments. His period in office at the regulator was also

Lettings of social and affordable rented homes in England fell by almost 11 per cent last year, to their lowest level since statistics were first reported in 2007/08

• The credit rating agency S&P says the Government’s change in rent policy, allowing social landlords to increase rents by one per cent above inflation, will not automatically result in improved credit rating scores for housing associations. Becaue the new policy will not be implemented until 2020 and HAs still have to impose annual rent cuts before then, it feels that social landlords still have significant financial pressures on their businesses to withstand. Historically low grant rates and an increasing reliance on market rental income are among other negative factors cited.

characterised by a sharpened focus on governance by HA boards, as well as value for money and the financial performance of HAs. His critics said this was at the expense of service standards and listening to customers. Simon Dow, the regulator’s deputy chair, took

over from Mr Ashby as interim chair until March 2019. Dow is one of just four members of the regulation committee with a recruitment process underway for further members.

Mr Ashby said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed and been privileged to have had the opportunity of chairing the Regulator of Social Housing. I feel I leave the regulator in a strong position as I move on to new challenges.”

It is notable that both Orr and Ashby enjoyed

long uninterrupted periods in their roles, in sharp contrast to the short terms (averaging under a year) enjoyed by the succession of Housing Ministers they have worked alongside | HMM March 2018 | 21

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