Social housing regulator launches rent standard consultation

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The good folk down at the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) have begun a consultation on a revised Rent Standard, due to come into effect from 1 April 2020.

Open until 30 July, the 12-week consultation follows housing minister James Brokenshire MP’s Direction to the regulator, which was published in February.

And what are the key elements of the Direction? Well, they, in handy list format, are:

  • For the RSH to also regulate rents charged by social housing stock-owning local authorities (LA registered providers) – aligning the regulation of council rents with private registered providers
  • To lock in the annual 1% reduction in social rents between 2016 and 2020, implemented through the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 – which aimed to help reduce costs for tenants paying all or part of their rent and put welfare spending on a more sustainable footing
  • To restrict rent increases on social rent and affordable rent properties by up to CPI+1% annually from 2020 for a period of at least five years – striking a balance between the interests of landlords, tenants and taxpayers
  • To reinstate the 5% flex for general needs stock and 10% for supported housing providers – allowing registered providers discretion over the rent set for individual properties, taking into account local circumstances and affordability in consultation with tenants

Fiona MacGregor, chief executive of RSH, had this to say: ‘The Direction itself has previously been consulted on by the government, but the aim is to ensure that the setting and management of rents is clear and easy to understand for all registered providers of social housing.

‘The long-term rent settlement should help provide a stable financial environment for the social housing sector to make the best possible use of its resources in supporting the delivery of new homes and effectively managing and maintaining properties, while protecting the interests of social housing tenants.’

So, if you’d like to take part then please click here.

Government releases £25m to tackle rough sleeping

Homeless person sleeping in tent on city street

One of Britain’s busiest announcers has made another announcement: housing minister James Brokenshire has declared that £25 million will be made available to assist rough sleepers.

The cash will be spread over 108 English councils and will be used to ‘fund innovative local schemes aimed at supporting people off the streets and into stable accommodation where they can receive the tailored care they need’.

These ‘local schemes’ will include

  • 20 new ‘Somewhere Safe to Stay’ rough sleeping centres – where people on the streets can access professional help and guidance, including immediate shelter and mental health support
  • Over 130 navigator posts – specialist support workers who direct people to the services they need, such as counselling, housing advice, mental health support or substance misuse services
  • 61 supported lettings schemes – helping people to secure tenancies in properties that they may not otherwise be able to access
  • 30 dedicated local letting agencies – specialist agencies that support vulnerable people into affordable and stable accommodation

The government says the 20 new rough sleeping centres will build on the 11 announced in December last year, which, the government boasts, exceeds ‘the commitment made in the Strategy’.

Brokenshire MP said: ‘We are taking steps to ensure people never have to face even one night on the streets.

‘These are vulnerable people, who may be dealing with complex mental health problems or addictions and require specialist support to tackle these issues and turn their lives around.

‘The funding confirmed today will ensure those sleeping on the streets have access to the professional help and guidance they need to get back on their feet – taking us one step closer to ending rough sleeping for good.’

And here, supplied by the government, is a case study:

In Gloucester, a Somewhere Safe to Stay hub opened earlier this year. In February, a man was referred to the hub and was confused, exhausted and suffering from memory loss. During his time at the hub, he was able to recuperate and was accompanied by a navigator to the health and homelessness team for assessment. His treatment helped him to remember details about his family and he was supported to reach out and reconnect with his family. He has since moved back to London to live with his relatives.

Elsewhere, Cornwall council will receive funding this year to trial a ‘roving hub’ across the county. This will allow services to rotate around three locations and engage with more rough sleepers, or people at risk. People will receive specialist, personalised support at the hub locations, linking them up with health and housing services so that, with the support they need, they can move on into settled and sustainable accommodation.

Government to miss 2020 housing target

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You’ll never guess what: the government is likely to miss its 2020 housing targets. Who would’ve imagined such a thing?

According to the National Audit Office (NAO), the current regime’s aims will probably be missed by at least five years because the sale of public land won’t have released enough space to meet even half of the target of 160,000 homes.

The NAO’s report shows that space for only 65,000 homes is likely to be available by 2020, with the full 160,000 only achievable after 2025.

Would you believe that the government had ‘no supporting documentation or economic evidence’ when it set its target in 2016 and that it is yet to publish ‘any information on new homes built’?

Meg Hillier MP, chairwoman of Westminster’s Public Accounts Committee, isn’t best pleased about the revelations. She said: ‘Not only is its programme highly unlikely to meet its target by 2020, it is also unable to provide basic information about the number of affordable homes, and homes for key workers, being built.

‘It is also unacceptable that the government does not have a national picture of where the proceeds from the land sales have gone.’

 

25% of PRS landlords looking to sell

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A quarter of private rented sector (PRS) landlords are looking to sell at least one property in the next year, a survey has revealed.

According to The Residential Landlords Association’s (RLA) quizzing of 2,500 landlords, over 25% are keen to offload property – the highest amount since way, way back in…2016.

The RLA’s research also found that 23% of the landlords have seen an increase in rental property demand over the last three months, while 57% noted no change.

David Smith, RLA policy director, said: ‘All the talk of longer tenancies will mean nothing if the homes to rent on not there in the first place.

‘The government’s tax increases on the sector are already making it difficult for tenants to find a place to live, with many landlords not renewing tenancies. If rushed and not thought through, planned changes to the way landlords can repossess properties risk making the situation even worse.

‘Action is needed to stimulate supply with pro-growth taxation and a process for repossessing homes that is fair to all.’

 

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