HQN Housing Management Network News

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The Housing Management Network routinely looks over the biggest and most relevant news stories, reports and publications for members, covering the latest updates for everyone working in neighbourhood, tenancy and estate management.

For more expert analysis, briefings and best practice for those involved in the safety of residents and employees, be sure to join the Housing Management Network. You can find out more here.

Late August 2019

Four new members appointed to Homes England’s Board

Four new members have been appointed to the Board of Homes England, the government’s housing accelerator.

Mark Rennison, Olivia Scanlon, Sadie Morgan and Vanessa Murden join the Homes England Board with immediate effect, increasing its gender diversity and boosting its resilience; taking its non-executive members from 6 to 10.

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Early August 2019

Are Social Housing Green Paper proposals on ice? We look at what has happened since last year

One year ago this week, the government published its long-awaited Social Housing Green Paper. This document, which was overdue, was supposed to be the “most substantial report of its kind for a generation” and deliver a “fundamental rethink of social housing in this country”.

But these lofty aims remain – as yet – unfulfilled.

A consultation on the paper closed in November, with a response and a potential white paper expected in spring. But as we pass the one-year anniversary, we are still waiting.

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AgeUK/Habinteg report: Home Truths – Rebutting ten myths about building accessible housing

This fact sheet addresses ten common myths about accessible homes that are often used to argue against further progress.

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RBKC to bring back lifetime tenancies

 The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) is set to bring back lifetime tenancies for its council tenants, it has announced.

The Council has listened to feedback from its tenants and, if approved by Councillors on Tuesday 23 July, it means tenants will be offered lifetime tenancies and can stay in their homes for as long as they wish, providing they do not breach their Council tenancy.

Previously, tenants had flexible tenancies for five years, or two years in exceptional circumstances.

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Council tenant fined £100,000 for Airbnb subletting

 A council tenant has been fined £100,000 and evicted for illegally subletting his central London home through Airbnb

Westminster City Council took legal action against Toby Harman, 37, after discovering he was renting out the Victoria flat as a holiday home.

A court ruled last summer that he had breached the terms of his tenancy agreement. It awarded the authority a possession order for the flat.

After an unsuccessful appeal attempt by Mr Hardman, he has now been made to pay Westminster City Council £100,974.94 under an unlawful profit order (UPO).

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Warrington Housing Association’s new summer tenant engagement event with a difference

Dozens of tenants and their children gathered for a Warrington Housing Association engagement event – that had a special Toy Story theme.

The housing association was keen to try out a new way of meeting younger tenants, so held the free event at the start of the school holidays with crafts, face painting, balloon modelling and a quiz, to capture this target audience.

Along with the fun activities, there were members of staff on hand from Warrington Housing Association (WHA) for them to talk to, including the money advice officer, who held workshops on the day, along with partner organisations such as uswitch and United Utilities.

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Supported service for homeless people credited for saving lives highlights benefits of eating together

 A supported housing service in Teesside has been recognised for saving people’s lives as it supports a campaign to highlight the benefits eating together has on people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Housing association Riverside has launched an Eat Together campaign to demonstrate how dining together can unite people as a community to combat social isolation and loneliness, including some of the benefits communal living can bring. Studies have shown that people who eat alone were more likely to experience depression than those who dined with others.

With this, Riverside’s supported housing services across the country are holding a variety of events with residents including The Stages Academy in Middlesbrough who creatively held a beach-themed party with scrumptious fish and chips, battered sausage and ice cream on the menu.

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Late July 2019

Government rules residents can take over a London housing estate

Firing a London-wide warning shot, the government has told a borough council it must cooperate with a ‘People’s Plan’ proposal to transfer a demolition-threatened estate to an organisation of residents.

Housing minister Kit Malthouse backed a report written for the government that rejects Lambeth council’s take on the transfer application.

That backing effectively over-rules council objections made in 2016 that the plan would have a “detrimental effect” on regeneration of the area.

Already, the ruling is seen as having implications for other London boroughs over ‘estate renewal’.

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Council can free up £40m bringing housing services back in-house

Newark and Sherwood District Council is the latest authority to confirm a bid to bring housing back in-house – freeing up £40m for related re-investment over 30 years.

Now, the council’s policy and finance committee is being asked to back tenant consultation on ending the company and bringing the management of council housing back into the council.

Following a review undertaken by an independent adviser, it is expected that this change will save at least £1m per year. A consultation with residents is underway.

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Social housing providers need to learn from outside sector

Social housing providers need to learn from organisations like Amazon and Royal Mail if they are to meet the expectations of their customers, according to a new report.

A poll of almost 6,000 social housing customers shows that more than four out of five people (82%) expect the same level of service as they do from other companies. And they expect it, because they’re paying for it.

That’s the main finding from a new report, Great Expectations, commissioned by social housing provider Acis who joined forces with seven other housing associations in what is considered to be one of the largest studies of its kind in the UK.

The report reveals the top ten qualities of great service in social housing:

1. Repairs
2. Speed
3. Maintenance
4. Listening
5. Communicating
6. Problem-solving
7. Keeping promises
8. Timeliness
9. Customer service
10. Respectfulness.

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‘Ordinary’ people now stand a chance of getting a council home in Milton Keynes

For the first time in years, ‘ordinary’ people living in Milton Keynes stand a change of being awarded a council home.

Young people wishing to move out from their parents’ homes, young couples, and people who cannot afford to rent privately will now all be considered under a radical new allocations policy. But there will be a strict criteria that they have been living in Milton Keynes for at least the past three years.

For years the council has been criticised for not giving local homes to local people from second and third generation Milton Keynes families. Thousands of people have been stuck on a waiting list for years, with many complaining that properties were being snapped up by up high priority people new to Milton Keynes.

The new policy is to be officially adopted by Milton Keynes Council this week. It will cover the 12,500 council-owned homes as well as thousands of housing association properties.

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New project launched to help support prison leavers into housing

A new project to support prison leavers into housing will help to break the cycle of prison and homelessness.

Housing and Local Government Minister Julie James has announced £273,000 to support men leaving prison in HMP Cardiff and women leaving prison in HMP Eastwood Park, Gloucestershire, including 10 Housing First places provided by Cardiff Council.

Housing First is designed to support people who need significant levels of help to move away from homelessness.

People receiving support are offered a place to live and then offered tailored, long term support to help enable them to manage a tenancy independently.

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Elderly facing private rented sector ‘time-bomb’ without social housing boost

Hundreds of thousands of people could be facing homelessness in their retirement in the coming decades due to the rising costs of renting in the UK and the lack of affordable housing, a new report has revealed.

A report carried out for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Housing and Care for Older People found that the rise in unaffordable rents for older people could cause a surge in pension poverty over the next 20 years.

The research, carried out by the Social Market Foundation for the APPG, found that by 2038 more than 630,000 older people may struggle to stay in their homes if rents continue to rise at their current rate.

It forecasts that future increases in rent without a major boost to social housebuilding could see a sharp rise in homelessness among older people. It estimates that 1.1m low-cost rent homes will be needed to adequately house pensioners by the late 2040s – an average of 38,000 homes a year.

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Early July 2019

Kent ‘Key amnesty’ scheme to help free up life-changing accommodation proves successful

Life-changing accommodation is being offered to new tenants thanks to the success of an anti-fraud campaign being carried out across Kent.

It was announced earlier this year that tenants across the county who are illegally cheating others out of a home were being given a chance to change their ways and avoid punishment.

Housing associations and local councils have this month been offering a ‘key amnesty’ to those who are subletting their home without permission or charging other people to live in the property while they stay elsewhere.

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Housing association joins Matrix Housing Partnership

One of the largest housing associations in the Midlands has joined a group of affordable housing providers in the region.

WM Housing, which plans to rename itself Citizen later this year, is the newest member of the Matrix Housing Partnership, a group of nine social landlords managing more than 100,000 homes across the Midlands between them.

The partnership has existed for 16 years and last year it signed a strategic partnership agreement with the government’s housing delivery agency, Homes England, worth £77m, to provide 2,257 homes.

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Affordable Housing supply boost as Homes England receives longer term funding for strategic partners

Homes England welcomes a £1bn funding boost for its Strategic Partners, which was recently announced by Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP at the Chartered Institute of Housing.

Homes England’s 23 Strategic Partners will be able to bid for grant funding which, if successful, will extend their existing deals from March 2024 to March 2029 – demonstrating how long-term funding certainty enables the delivery of more homes.

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A new partnership for Accent residents

Accent has launched its new service offer, the Accent Partnership. The Accent Partnership, which has been developed by both residents and staff, is based on residents’ priorities. It promises to deliver a new and improved service to Accent’s 35,000+ residents.

The new offer will deliver improved services and standards across the association’s homes, repairs service, tenancy support, contact systems and lettings. Accent has also invested heavily in supporting technology for improved online access and mobile working for those customers happy to transact online, without forgetting those who still want a more personal service.

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WDH is first housing association to receive Exemplar Accreditation for commitment to tenants

WDH has been awarded the new TPAS Exemplar accreditation, recognising its commitment to engagement with tenants. It is the first housing association to have achieved the award.

The assessment scrutinised six themes: WDH’s Engagement Strategy, Resources for Engagement, Information and Insight, Accountability, Influence and Scrutiny, Community Engagement and Valuing Engagement. The housing association passed all six, receiving commendations on the approach taken to learning from research and using insight to inform services, partnership working with stakeholders and the excellent approach taken to co-regulation.

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Social housing landlord undertakes IoT trial across city-wide fibreCKH is Peterborough’s largest

Cross Key Homes in Peterborough has partnered with CityFibre to deploy a network of sensors throughout its estate to test a number of different scenarios.

Peterborough’s largest social housing landlord, Cross Keys Homes (CKH), has undertaken a trial to explore how a network of sensors could monitor health, safety and environmental factors as well as deliver cost-savings and reduce its carbon footprint.

The trial, at three residential locations in the city, transmitted real-time data back from sensors to a network of antennas and onto CityFibre’s network.

The data triggered prompt action by CKH employees to improve tenants’ safety and security.

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Row over plan to move tenants into homes next to toxic waste site

A waste management firm has said it is “extremely concerned” at a Staffordshire council’s decision to move tenants into housing association homes at a development next to one of its hazardous sites.

Axil Integrated Services claimed that children living in the homes would play closer to toxic and flammable waste than it allows its own staff to go. However, the council and WHG said they are taking steps to ensure the homes are safe, including the planned installation of a four-metre heat shield along the boundary of Axil’s site and sprinklers in the closest homes, together costing £385,000.

The council has also agreed that anyone from its housing list offered a home at Chenet Chase will be made “fully aware of all the risk information beforehand” and will not be penalised if they refuse to move in.

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Non-compliant supported housing association posts £4.7m loss

A supported housing association that has breached five regulatory standards has posted a £4.7m loss.

Westmoreland Supported Housing’s results for the 18 months to last September said that it had a turnover of £25.3m but spent £30m.

The association explained in its accounts that £20m of its £30m expenditure had gone on payments to the funds that own its homes. This was a huge increase on the £2.8m it spent in the 18 months before that. It also recorded £4.3m of “bad debts”, despite having recorded no bad debts in the previous period.

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June 2019

Regulator consulting on intervention and enforcement powers

Traditionally the Regulator of Social Housing has operated on a light-touch regulation basis, with various moves to deregulate also having been proposed and sometimes passed over recent years. After the Grenfell Tower fire and with rising resident concerns about whether they are being ignored by landlords and government in some cases, the Regulator of Social Housing has launched a consultation to ask if it should step in more often, and how it should use its powers if landlords are breaching or not correctly meeting regulatory standards. There is potential scope here to suggest the regulator should intervene more frequently in instances where the consumer standards have been breached, and this could be an opportunity for residents and staff to suggest realistic ways of promoting better practice across the whole package of regulations.

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Prime Minister addresses Chartered Institute of housing conference

Celebrating not doing, or repealing, many of the things that her own government tried to implement in the housing and planning act 2016, the Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech was a mix of legacy-building and selective facts about varying successes of housebuilding, fire safety, tenant voice and future regulations about space standards. It is very welcome that things like this government’s pursuit of tiny flats in re-purposed office blocks are now seen as a bad thing, but as with so many of the other changes required to improve the ability of people to live in safe, decent, affordable homes, a lot of what needs to happen still seems to be out for consultation. The PM did announce that there would be a new regulatory regime announced in an “action plan” for the next stages of the Social Housing Green Paper, which is likely to require landlord to publicise and justify their resident involvement strategies and their effectiveness.

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Unified call to build adequate levels of social rented homes

The National Housing Federation, the Chartered Institute of Housing, Shelter, Crisis UK and even the Campaign for the Protection of the Rural Environment have all come together to ask the government to invest in the much-needed future of homes people can afford by spending £12.8bn per year on homes over the next ten years. This sounds like a lot of money, but in exchange the economy would benefit by approximately £125bn each year. Similar calls have been detailed in the past by SHOUT – the campaign for social housing and the recent Shelter commission report, but this is the first time there has been a united call across the sector with fully costed proposals. Probably nobody will pay any attention.

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IKEA to build affordable homes

With this BBC article quick off the mark with jokes about flat-pack homes, Swedish furniture and lifestyle retail giant IKEA, famous for unpronouncable tableware and making you follow arrows to get around the approved routes in their stores, has agreed a deal to build housing. Worthing Council in the south of England has agreed to work with BoKlok, a factory-homes builder, to build 162 homes in their town. “It is about a high-quality off-site manufacturing process that allows us to assemble them quickly in a safe and sustainable environment” BoKlok said, probably trying to pretend they have not heard all the flat-pack home jokes before.

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Rebalancing the landlord tenant relationship takes work, and money

Optivo, a merger of housing associations Amicus Horizon and Viridian, are often held up as an exemplar of good, proactive work on ensuring that residents are involved in decision-making in all areas of the business. Although there has been a lot of talk about mutual housing associations lately – giving residents direct power and accountability for organisational policy by giving them a vote on landlord decisions – there are still more traditional ways of resident involvement that can be crucially effective. One example of this is the continuously reviewed model Optivo operates of panels, scrutiny groups, involvement teams and governance and board membership provision that Paul Hackett talks about here in Inside Housing. As with many worthy projects, it requires investment of money, and the time and dedication of residents and staff working together so that communities can influence what happens in their communities.

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Regulatory Judgements from the Regulator of Social Housing

The regulator has released short-form judgements on the Governance and Viability gradings for a range of housing bodies this week, including Grand Union Housing, Catalyst Housing, Richmond Housing Partnership, and many others, with the majority retaining V1 and G1 status. Continuing a focus on stress-testing, the regulator downgraded Cornerstone Housing from G1 to G2, with the regulator advising that more stress testing is needed to inform the board of its business planning and treasury management strategies. Greater modelling is required for a wider range of scenarios in which the landlord could find itself, with the regulator recommending more detailed plans for mitigating financial covenant breaches, more detail on management action plans and a wider range of scenarios needing to be tested for pressures on its cash position.

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Fife housing group adopts ground-breaking new approach to aid homeless people into work

Kingdom Housing Association is pioneering an innovative new project aiming to break the vicious circle of homelessness and unemployment. It will simultaneously give a homeless person a job, a home and support with any complex needs or barriers to sustaining their tenancy.

Named after Laurie Naumann, a founding member of Kingdom Housing Association and its current vice-chair, the Naumann initiative is designed to help into work and decent housing, people who are unemployed homeless.

The first role Kingdom is filling through the scheme is a tenancy sustainment worker.The successful candidate will support other people who have experienced homelessness help them make the transition to take up a home with Kingdom.

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Equity-linked housing association first ever to breach tenant standard

Equity-linked association Westmoreland Supported Housing breached the English regulator’s standard on empowering tenants for the first time, the regulator has confirmed.

In a notice published last month, the RSH censured Westmoreland, which provides housing mainly for adults with learning and physical disabilities, for breaching the Home Standard, the Tenancy Standard, and the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard.

Westmoreland was criticised for its handling of a set of evictions, understood to be from a number of homes in Gloucester owned by investment fund Henley Social Investments.

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Greater Manchester unveils its housing strategy

A plan for every resident in Greater Manchester to have access to a safe, decent and affordable home sit at the heart of an ambitious Greater Manchester Housing Strategy that is to go before leaders at this month’s Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) meeting.

One of the strategy’s key aims is to focus on the link between housing and social issues such as health and ageing, following intensive working with partners at Greater Manchester’s Health and Social Care Partnership. Proposals include a new ‘Healthy Homes Service’ to help support vulnerable people live safely and independently in their own homes, and a more strategic approach to the provision of high quality supported housing across the city region.

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