Social Housing Reform Update

The Government’s 2020 social housing white paper, The Charter for Social Housing Residents, set out a series of measures aimed at delivering ‘transformational change’ for social housing residents. The measures focus on improving the quality of social housing by making social landlords more accountable for the standard of their accommodation, and empowering residents via better regulation and improvements to the complaints and redress process.

According to the Government, the Charter was well received by tenants, social landlords and the housing sector. However, concerns were raised about certain elements, including frustration over the slow pace of social housing reform, issues regarding the supply of homes for social rent, confusion over the ultimate purpose of social housing, the failure to address the stigma attached to social tenants (given the Government’s strong focus on home ownership), and the challenges social landlords could face in meeting the new requirements.

Following further consultation regarding delivery of the proposals with experts from across the sector and social housing residents, the Social Housing Regulation Bill 2023 is currently passing through Parliament. The Bill is intended to regulate social housing and establishes the legal basis for many of the proposed reforms, particularly by setting up new approved schemes for investigating complaints about social housing from tenants.

Apart from improving the consumer regulation regime, the Bill’s other core objectives are to modify the existing economic regulatory regime, and strengthen the Regulator of Social Housing’s powers to enforce both regimes. Further provisions include empowering the Housing Ombudsman to issue a code of practice for complaint handling and monitoring compliance, as well as formalising and enhancing the relationship between the Regulator and the Ombudsman.

Six years after the Grenfell Tower fire provided the impetus for reform in the social housing sector, the Social Housing Regulation Bill 2023 will finally provide concrete improvements to the legal rights of social housing tenants, and make landlords more responsible for providing decent and safe housing. While the proof will be in the delivery, this is at least welcome news for tenants living in England’s four million social homes.

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