On 14th August, the Government issued a Housing Green Paper consultation document which has been produced partly as a response to the tragedy at Grenfell Tower a year earlier. In that context, we thought it might be interesting to outline what it’s all about and what it might mean for Hexagon’s residents.
The context is that, shortly after Grenfell an inquiry was set up and the Prime Minister asked the then Housing Minister, Alok Sharma MP, to travel around the country speaking to tenants to find out about their concerns. This was partly in the context of the residents in Grenfell Tower saying that their voices and concerns over safety matters had been ignored by their landlord.
We have had two Housing Ministers since then, but we think it’s fair to say that the Government’s focus on this topic remains. The Green Paper is a consultation paper and contains 48 questions. The deadline for responding was 6th November and Hexagon provided its response with input from residents on our scrutiny groups. A copy of the Hexagon response to the Housing Green Paper consultation can be found here.
- Chapter 1 is all about how we can ensure homes are safe. This chapter is clearly informed by Grenfell. The central idea is about HAs working with residents on this area more closely. This is a very important area as the safety of our residents is paramount and we will want to ensure we are doing all we can to ensure their safety. We would also support a review of the now historic “decent homes” standard.
- Chapter 2 proposes some improvements to complaint resolution. There are currently long waiting times for complaints to be heard by the Housing Ombudsman. Clearly resolving residents’ complaints quickly is a priority. In that context, we will also reflect on how we can speed up complaints within Hexagon as this is an important area.
- Chapter 3 is really the heart of the consultation document. It is called ‘Empowering Residents and Strengthening the Regulator’. The proposals here include:
o The introduction of standard performance measures (around repairs, maintaining safe buildings, complaint handling, engagement with residents, neighbourhood management and tackling ASB)
o A stronger role for the regulator over performance and giving them more teeth to intervene.
- Chapter 4 is all about tackling stigma around social housing. Many tenants across the country told the Minister that they felt they were being treated as “benefit scroungers” and were being “demonised”. Hexagon would support Government measures that help tackle the stigma our residents face.
- Chapter 5 is about explaining supply and new homes. Tackling the housing crisis is clearly an urgent priority and we have added our voice to others encouraging the Government in doing this.
In conclusion, the Green Paper does propose some big changes. Safety in homes will take centre stage, as will quality. Tenants will be empowered to ensure that their complaints are dealt with quickly. The social housing regulator will have more teeth to deal with housing associations who are not delivering on their service promises to residents. Those who don’t deliver good services may find themselves without funding for new build homes.
It is worth remembering that at the moment this is simply a consultation paper so we won’t know exactly what the new proposals look like until the government has considered the results of the consultation and reported back. We don’t expect any immediate changes, but we do think this Green Paper signals a fundamental change in direction and one that will definitely impact on the way that Hexagon operates in the future.