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Industry news


Delayed Green Paper fails to deliver on blue sky thinking or any new social homes


on the high expectations raised by the Government in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster. When he announced there would be a Green


T


Paper a year ago, the then Communities Secretary Sajid Javid promised us something radical, that would set a new and positive tone for social housing, giving it a prominent role in the nation’s life. He said “getting more of the right homes built in the right places” would be at the heart of the proposals. This tone was echoed by the Prime Minister in a


foreword to the Green Paper, when she wrote: “Towards the end of the last century council house building virtually came to a halt. Since 2010 that has begun to turn around, but now we need to get back to the scale of new social housing that will deliver a real difference to communities – that’s why we’ve already made it easier for councils in the most expensive areas to access the money they need to build homes for Social Rent. “This Green Paper will provide a further boost to


the number of council houses. But it goes further still, renewing and deepening our commitment not just to the fabric of social homes, but also to the people who live in them.”


WARM PLATITUDES Instead we appear to have got some warm platitudes and a desire to rebalance the relationship between tenants and their landlords, while also removing any stigma from the sector. But the Government still appears to see social housing as a stepping- stone towards home ownership, rather than as an end in itself. The Green Paper enjoyed plenty of media exposure, but failed to excite and its future success probably lies in the degree of positive engagement which councils and housing associations can force upon themselves. After the Grenfell tragedy Ministers spent


countless hours touring the country talking to hundreds of tenants of social landlords to find out what they wanted and in the end they delivered an odd collection of ideas, some rehashed from the past including league tables for housing associations. Links to the welfare and benefit system appear to have been lost or overlooked. The Green Paper is now open for consultation until 6 November – the day after Bonfire Night! There is a linked call for evidence on the


fitness for purpose of the Regulatory Framework as a whole. This is likely to produce a recalibration of the Regulatory Standards with the Consumer Standards and tenant safety taking a more prominent role and requiring greater


When he announced there would be a Green Paper a year ago, the then Communities Secretary Sajid Javid promised us something radical, that would set a new and positive tone for social housing, giving it a prominent role in the nation’s life


pro-active intervention from the regulator. It will almost certainly mean the end of the “serious detriment” threshold. In addition it appears we will see an updating of


the Decent Homes Standard, which is welcome if a bit overdue. This will probably focus on improving the health and safety features of tenants’ homes. When the standard was first brought in it was accompanied by a significant funding boost, but so far we are unclear on whether this update will attract any extra money. This has led some stock holding councils to raise viability concerns about their Housing Revenue Accounts and business plans. The proposals to tackle social stigma appear well


intentioned but flimsy. Funding street parties as a way of rewarding neighbourhoods looks trivial, while much of the community and financial inclusion work undertaken by HAs has been cut back as a result of the Government’s rent reduction policies.


RESOURCES QUESTIONS Campaigners, sector bodies and tenants were


almost unanimous in slamming the proposals as overly timid and failing to address the core problem of not enough social homes being built. The Green Paper acknowledges the need for up to 300,000 new homes but does not promise a single extra penny for new social homes. Last year only 5,380 social homes were built whereas sector figures are demanding up to 90,000 new social properties a year.


Among its other proposals are allowing tenants


to buy one per cent shares in their homes each year (but this only applies to new shared ownership properties), speeding up complaints processes against social landlords, giving the regulator additional powers so it is more like Ofsted and restarting the stock transfer programme from councils to community-led associations. On a more positive note, the Government


appears to have dropped plans to force councils to sell off their most valuable housing properties, while it has also launched a further consultation on the details of the Right to Buy which could see councils able to use more of the sales receipts for building new homes. It is also scrapping plans to force social landlords to only offer fixed-term tenancies in social rent housing. Housing Secretary James Brokenshire, who


launched a consultation on the proposals, said: "Our Green Paper offers a landmark opportunity for major reform to improve fairness, quality and safety for residents living in social housing across the country. Regardless of whether you own your home or rent, residents deserve security, dignity and the opportunities to build a better life." But the Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey


said the Green Paper was "pitiful", with nothing that "measures up to the scale of the housing crisis". He added: "The number of new social rented homes is at a record low but there is no new money to increase supply, and Ministers are still preventing local authorities run by all parties from building the council homes their communities need."


www.housingmmonline.co.uk | HMM September 2018 | 5


he long awaited Housing Green Paper was launched with a media fanfare during the Parliamentary recess, but it failed to deliver


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