Housing Policy Updates

As well as the recent Select Committee hearing, there have been other housing updates. First, social housing is gaining more traction in Westminster and the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Committees (DLUHC) has responded to this. Secondly, DLUHC has indicated that councils will be allowed to keep 100% of their right to buy receipts for 2022-23 and 2023-24.

Social housing

The Select Committee inquiry will investigate the financial pressures facing social landlords and the resources needed to meet a variety of challenges. This includes the need to build thousands of new homes for social rent. This inquiry follows on from their ‘Regulation of social housing report’ that was conducted in July 2022; it highlighted the appalling and unsafe conditions of some social homes due to mould, dampness and leaks. 

Commenting on the incoming inquiry, Clive Betts – Chairman of the Levelling up Select Committee – stated: “Tenants deserve better and it is right that social landlords, supported by Government, step up their efforts to ensure homes are fit to live in and that tenant complaint is treated seriously and promptly. The social housing sector is in crisis. The reality is that social landlords face a range of significant financial pressures, not least the urgent need to invest in improving homes…the sector must also meet the pressing demands to build thousands of new homes for social rent, decarbonise the housing stock, and fix building safety defects.”

In response, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published a collection of improvements that have been made since being elected to office in 2019. This included requiring all landlords to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in properties from October 2022, improving the complaints process through the housing Ombudsman, and naming and shaming failing landlords.

Also published in the last few weeks was a House of Commons briefing paper on the future of social housing reform. It articulated the current issues and trends that need to be addressed.

Council Housing 

Right to buy, which was originally introduced under Margaret Thatcher, has been giving social housing tenants the right to buy their property since the 1980 Housing Act. Previously, councils that sold social housing back through this system would have to give a proportion of the funds back to the Treasury.

However, a letter was sent out by the deputy director of DLUHC stating:

 “Local authorities will be able to keep all their right to buy receipts from sales in 2022-23 and 2023-24 and will have five years to spend the money.

Local authorities should not wait to begin using their retained receipts and can immediately begin incorporating this additional funding into their build plans.”

The letter also stated there would be a frozen cap on the acquisitions, something that was introduced in March 2022. The cap states local authorities are not allowed to deliver more than 50% of the replacement of homes bought through the scheme.