A report examined the use of regional collaboration and shared services between housing associations, drawing on examples of existing practice and lessons learned from the public sector.
Source: Sharon Collins, Make, Buy... or Share? Sharing services, HouseMark
The government began consultation on proposals to introduce new regulations to ensure that local residency requirements did not prevent social housing tenants from moving into an area to take up work or training opportunities. The proposals included: strengthened statutory guidance to clarify the use of the 'hardship' reasonable category, or to create a new 'reasonable preference' category, for such circumstances; to use the guidance to ensure that local authorities set aside a proportion of lets (at least 1 per cent) to facilitate moves across local authority boundaries for work-related reasons; and to make clear the expectations regarding choice based lettings schemes. The consultation also sought views on how social housing providers used existing flexibility to support tenants' moves, and outlined plans to support local authorities in testing new approaches which made use of new and existing allocation flexibilities to reward 'positive behaviour' (such as work, community contributions, having a good tenancy record, downsizing, or freeing up adapted properties) and make better use of housing stock. The consultation would close on 22 October 2014.
Source: Right to Move: Consultation, Department for Communities and Local Government
The government announced the launch of a £400 million programme of low-cost loans to housing associations and other providers to fund the building of new homes from 2015 to 2018, with half of the fund being made available for building within London. The providers would be required to make the homes available for rent at below-market rates while the loans were being repaid, and for a minimum of seven years. At the end of a fixed period, the tenant would be given first refusal to buy the property. The prospectus for providers was launched alongside the press release.
Source: Eric Pickles, New 'Rent to Buy' scheme to help young people save and move up housing ladder, Press release 26 September 2014, Department for Communities and Local Government
A think-tank report said that only 15 per cent of the public were opposed to the building of new social housing (although the figure rose at the prospect of social housing being built in the places where people lived, to 27 per cent). The report concluded that: there was strong support for the government to address housing problems in the United Kingdom; that there was a need for the housing crisis to be redefined and the role of social housing clarified; that there should be a political focus on affordability, and on addressing the stigma attached to social housing by shifting policy towards those more popularly seen as 'deserving'; and that new housing should be built to high quality standards.
Source: Natan Doron and Robert Tinker, Silent Majority: How the public will support a new wave of social housing, Fabian Society
A study examined the attitudes and behaviour of social housing tenants towards saving, and considered what could be done to improve levels of saving. The report said that: most respondents (76 per cent) were not saving regularly; 67 per cent held no savings; 73 per cent felt they ought to save more and wanted to; 88 per cent had experienced, during their tenancy, at least one major life event that could affect their financial security; many respondents appeared to prioritize spending in line with their peers and the social norms around them; and those who felt they were 'just getting by' prioritized some 'non-essential', though 'non-extravagant', items. The report proposed a 'Rent Plus' opt-in scheme, to collect a monthly savings sum along with rent, with options for tenants to add to, or withdraw from, the account directly.
Source: Bad Weather Good Habits: Encouraging social housing tenants to save more, Lemos&Crane
An article examined the concept of security in rented housing. Drawing on a study of the rental systems in nine developed countries, it identified factors that influenced security of occupancy, to test a new framework that incorporated the interactions between legislation/regulation, housing market conditions, public policies, and cultural norms. The article concluded that the approach had the potential to inform understanding of security in the rented sector and to promote new directions for research.
Source: Kath Hulse and Vivienne Milligan, 'Secure occupancy: a new framework for analysing security in rental housing', Housing Studies, Volume 29 Number 5
A think-tank report examined the scope for partnerships between housing associations and the National Health Service. It said that the existing objectives in health and social care fit well with the capabilities, strengths, and ethos of the social housing sector, and that housing associations providing supported housing could help to deliver the government's health strategy through initiatives such as joint ventures to provide new models of supported housing, step-down and reablement facilities, or extra support and care for people in their own homes. The report was published alongside a further report which discussed the use of surplus National Health Service land for new supported housing provision.
Source: Denise Chevin, Housing Associations and the NHS: New thinking, new partnerships, Smith Institute
An article examined recent moves to withdraw security of tenure in social housing in England and Australia. It scrutinized the 'welfare dependency' argument and the claim that 'conditionality' mechanisms would incentivize social renters to (re)engage with the labour market; and also the argument that stressed equity considerations in ensuring that scarce social housing resources were targeted to those in greatest need. It said that individual social landlords' motivations would be crucial in shaping the practical impacts of the new regime.
Source: Suzanne Fitzpatrick and Hal Pawson, 'Ending security of tenure for social renters: transitioning to "ambulance service" social housing?', Housing Studies, Volume 29 Number 5
An article examined whether there were lessons for housing providers to be learned from adult serious case reviews.
Source: Imogen Parry, 'Adult serious case reviews: lessons for housing providers', Journal of Social Welfare & Family Law, Volume 36 Number 2
A new book examined social housing policy and practice in Europe, including analysis of how the social housing system worked in each country, European trends in the sector, and opportunities for innovation and improvement. Chapters covered a range of individual countries (including England) and also explored social housing in the context of urban regeneration, privatization, financing models, and the impact of European Union state aid regulations.
Source: Kathleen Scanlon, Christine Whitehead, and Melissa Fernandez Arrigoitia (eds), Social Housing in Europe, Wiley-Blackwell
A report provided findings from an independent review of events that led to liquidity problems for, and subsequent rescue of, Cosmopolitan Housing Group, a social housing provider. The report made a range of recommendations for housing associations, their governing boards, the government, and the housing regulator regarding governance and risk management approaches.
Source: Cosmopolitan Housing Group: Lessons learned, Altair
A report examined how housing associations in England had responded to changes in the provision and administration of benefits since April 2013. Building on work outlined in an earlier report, it said that strategic responses had included measures such as amending policies and practices, reviewing development plans, and mobilizing staff from across different departments. It said that, overall, associations thought they and their tenants were managing the impacts effectively, particularly the size criteria (bedroom tax) and the benefit cap, but the imposition of jobseekers allowance sanctions was a rising issue and the implementation and administration of discretionary housing payments was inconsistent. Tenants' responses to the size criteria had mostly been to remain in their homes and pay the increased proportion of rent, but finding full-time work was reported to be difficult. The impact on associations was greatest for those with concentrations of larger homes in lower demand areas. Associations thought they would be able to manage existing arrears levels if no further problems arose. However, they reported that some tenants were faced with an accumulation of changes including the bedroom tax, the changes in council tax benefit, and rising utility costs. The roll out of universal credit and, in particular, direct payments to tenants was thought to be likely to increase difficulties for landlords and tenants.
Source: Peter Williams, Anna Clarke, and Christine Whitehead, Housing Associations And Welfare Reform: Facing up to the realities, Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research (University of Cambridge)
The regulator for social housing providers in England began consultation on proposals to make changes to the regulatory framework, and to change the rent standard and guidance as a result of direction by the Department for Communities and Local Government. The consultation would close on 19 August 2014.
Source: Consultation on Changes to the Regulatory Framework, Homes and Communities Agency
A briefing paper discussed how landlords were approaching tenancy fraud in the social housing sector in England, and discussed good practice.
Source: New Approaches in Tackling Tenancy Fraud: Supporting organisations to pioneer new ways of working and review current and emerging practice, Chartered Institute of Housing
A report examined the reduction in costs to the National Health Service as a result of improvements to social housing arising from the Decent Homes programme (2001-2010). The report also considered the additional social costs of poor quality homes, the impact of other housing-related safety hazards, the work required to resolve remaining non-decent homes, and the sustainability of existing good standards.
Source: Helen Garrett, Maggie Davidson, Mike Roys, Simon Nicol, and Viv Mason, Quantifying the Health Benefits of the Decent Homes Programme, BRE Press
A paper examined the relationship over time between immigration and access to social housing in the United Kingdom.
Source: Diego Battiston, Richard Dickens, Alan Manning, and Jonathan Wadsworth, Immigration and the Access to Social Housing in the UK, Discussion Paper 1264, Centre for Economic Performance (London School of Economics)
A report provided the baseline findings from a longitudinal study of the emerging consequences of benefit changes on working age social housing tenants in the south west of England. It said that tenants viewed the welfare reforms as a great uncertainty that could disturb their carefully managed, but limited, household budgets. The research had found that reforms led to cuts in income for almost half of the tenants interviewed, and were contributing to the growth of debt and rent arrears. Practical responses to financial pressures, included: reducing expenditure on food, utilities, and other household items; using savings; selling personal items; and asking family members for help. Tenants reported many difficulties in finding work, and the report said there was a general sense that the removal of the spare room subsidy (commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax') was unfair. The report outlined some initial lessons for housing associations, government, and society. A second round of follow-up interviews was scheduled for April 2014.
Source: Anne Power, Bert Provan, and Eileen Herden, Work and Welfare Reform: Impacts in the South West, CASEreport 81, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (London School of Economics)
A report examined the consideration of poverty within the strategies, policies, and business plans of local authorities, housing associations, and private landlords, and the role of housing providers in reducing poverty. It said that policy focused on issues such as social exclusion and tenure residualization, rather than the interactions between housing and poverty, and there was little evidence available on explicit anti-poverty strategies. It noted the tensions for housing associations in balancing their commercial aims with their more traditional social goals and said that 'affordable rents' were likely to increase the poverty of some tenants.
Source: Anna Clarke, Sam Morris, Chihiro Udagawa, and Peter Williams, The Role of Housing Organisations in Reducing Poverty: A review of strategic and business plans, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
A report provided the results of a survey of housing associations on the early impacts of the introduction of the social sector size criteria (also known as the 'bedroom tax'), the benefit cap, and preparations for universal credit. The report said that 58 per cent of housing associations had been affected by the size criteria either a 'great deal' or a 'fair amount', but this varied by region. It said that an average of 9 per cent of general needs tenancies were affected by the size criteria and 17 per cent of affected tenancies housed someone with a disability. The report said that two-thirds of tenants affected were currently in arrears and, of these, three-quarters had seen their arrears increase since 1st April 2013. Over half (53 per cent) of associations reported an increased difficulty in rent collection because of the size criteria and 49 per cent had seen an increase in tenants looking to downsize to a smaller home. The report noted that one-third of associations with planned development programmes had either changed, or planned to change, their programme to give greater prominence to one and two bedroom properties. The survey also found that associations had a range of concerns for tenants as a result of the introduction of universal credit.
Source: Impact of Welfare Reforms on Housing Associations: Early effects and responses by landlords and tenants, Ipsos MORI
The regulator for social housing providers in England began consultation on proposals to introduce fees for registered housing providers to cover the cost of regulation, as provided for in the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008. The consultation would close on 21 March 2014.
Source: Charging Fees for Social Housing Regulation: A discussion paper, Homes and Communities Agency
A report evaluated 12 government-funded, local authority-led demonstration projects to test innovative and cost effective ways of supporting the mutual exchange of housing tenancies. It examined the effectiveness of different approaches taken by the demonstration projects, and outlined key learning points.
Source: Elaine Batty, Steve Green, Kesia Reeve, David Robinson, and Ian Wilson, Promoting Mobility Through Mutual Exchange: Learning lessons from the housing mobility demonstration projects, Department for Communities and Local Government
A report examined the impact of welfare reforms on local government and housing associations in England, and the early indicators regarding the effectiveness and future challenges of the changes. It said that organizations had been proactive in addressing the impact, although some local authorities had not looked at the full range of available options and there was scope for more partnership working. The report said the full impact of the reforms was yet to be felt but there were early signs for concern, such as rising rent and council tax arrears and increasing homelessness. The effect of removing the spare room subsidy was not yet clear.
Source: Reaping the Benefits? First impressions of the impact of welfare reform, Grant Thornton
A report examined the operation of social lettings agencies in Wales, produced as part of the Welsh Local Government Association Private Rented Sector Improvement Project (funded by the Welsh government). It said that some agencies were run by local authorities or housing associations, and others were private or voluntary sector organizations. The report said that geographical coverage was uneven across the 22 local authorities, and there was a wide variety of schemes and funding arrangements. Most agencies and local authorities anticipated an increased demand for private rented sector properties as a result of benefit changes.
Source: Social Lettings Agencies in Wales, Welsh Local Government Association
A study examined the impact of welfare reform on housing employees. The report said that: 77 per cent of respondents thought customer interactions had become more challenging and 42 per cent felt only slightly/moderately equipped to cope with the increased challenge; 90 per cent reported customers to be in more financial difficulty than six months ago; 58 per cent had found increased mental health issues among their customer base; and 45 per cent had experienced customers making suicide threats. More than half of respondents (55 per cent) reported feeling stressed at work. The report made recommendations for consideration by employers.
Source: Impact of Welfare Reform on Housing Employees, Straightforward
The Northern Ireland Executive launched a public consultation to gather views on the outcomes of research into social housing allocations. The research had been commissioned as part of an ongoing review and there would now be three public events to discuss the findings before the consultation would close on 4 March 2014.
Source: Northern Ireland Executive
Report 1: Paddy Gray, Michaela Keenan, Ursula McAnulty, Anna Clarke, Sarah Monk, and Connie Tang, Research to Inform a Fundamental Review of Social Housing Allocations Policy – Report 1: Current approaches to accessing and allocating social housing in Northern Ireland, University of Ulster/University of Cambridge
Report 2: Paddy Gray, Michaela Keenan, Ursula McAnulty, Anna Clarke, Sarah Monk, and Connie Tang, Research to Inform a Fundamental Review of Social Housing Allocations Policy – Report 2: Best practice approaches to accessing and allocating social housing in Britain and the Republic of Ireland, University of Ulster/University of Cambridge
Report 3: Paddy Gray, Michaela Keenan, Ursula McAnulty, Anna Clarke, Sarah Monk, and Connie Tang, Research to Inform a Fundamental Review of Social Housing Allocations Policy – Final Report: Conclusions and recommendations, University of Ulster/University of Cambridge
A report examined the costs to housing associations in Scotland of the the removal of the spare room subsidy (also known as the 'bedroom tax'). It said that their modelling estimated the total costs over first three years to be £79 million. The report called on the United Kingdom government to repeal the measure, and for the Scottish government to help mitigate the impact.
Source: The Real Cost of the Bedroom Tax for Scottish Housing Associations and Co-operatives, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
A government department published new statutory guidance for social housing allocations, supplemental to existing guidance issued in June 2012. The new guidance would require housing providers to ensure that applicants had a local connection of at least 2 years' duration. It also clarified the eligibility of members of the armed forces, and encouraged the publication of local allocations outcomes.
Source: Providing Social Housing for Local People: Statutory guidance on social housing allocations for local authorities in England, Department for Communities and Local Government
An article examined the right of social landlords in England (under the Localism Act 2011) to award fixed-term (flexible) tenancies, thereby ending the right of new tenants to a secure tenancy. Reform had been justified by the idea that security of tenure promoted dependency, undercut social mobility, and prevented the effective operation of the sector as a welfare service, but interviews with social tenants showed that security of tenure was a source of stability that helped to mediate the precariousness of life on low incomes. It said that policy-makers should be looking to extend, rather than curtail, these benefits through an improved rental housing 'offer'.
Source: David Robinson and Aimee Walshaw, 'Security of tenure in social housing in England', Social Policy and Society, Volume 13 Issue 1