Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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Next steps for new social housing watchdog

Next steps for new social housing watchdog

COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT News Release (191) issued by The Government News Network on 15 October 2007

A new social housing watchdog that will crack down on registered social landlords in England who are giving tenants a poor service, such as long waits for repairs, is being established as an independent, standalone body, Housing Minister Yvette Cooper announced today.

The new organisation - the Office for Tenants and Social Landlords - will have the powers to back up tenants of Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) when they report poor service.

This new body will replace the role currently played by the Housing Corporation. The decision to establish the social housing regulator as an independent body follows consultation with industry, and will give it a greater focus on protecting the needs of tenants while freeing good social landlords from red tape. The current system is not designed to release regulatory burdens from social landlords who are performing well nor to intervene if tenant groups complain about the service they receive.

The new office will ensure that landlords provide a good service to their tenants, complementing the role of the Homes and Communities Agency in delivering 30,000 new affordable homes a year.

The new watchdog is the key recommendation accepted by the Government from the Cave Review of Social Housing in June, the most wideranging review of the regulation of social housing for 30 years.

Under the new system tenants' groups will be able to alert the regulator to poor service; the regulator will then have the authority to impose a wide range of penalties and sanctions on failing social landlords, including the power to trigger a change of management, and to help ensure tenants receive a good service.

Lenders, social landlords and tenant groups argued for the new regulator to be a standalone body. The Government agreed this would ensure the confidence of lenders and support the expansion of new homes.

The Government today also announced that an independently chaired advisory panel will carry out further work with stakeholders in order to bring local authorities under the scope of the watchdog within two years of it coming into operation.

Yvette Cooper said:
"If housing associations are doing a good job they should have less red tape. But if tenants aren't getting a good deal, we need much stronger action.

"Social housing tenants shouldn't have to put up with bad service from landlords. Long waits for repairs or worries about poor security can make people's lives a misery.

"We want tenants to have a real say on how their homes and estates are managed. The new regulator will assess landlords' poor performance and take action to make sure it improves."

Professor Martin Cave said:
"I am very pleased that the Government has decided to implement the recommendations of the report and look forward to them being introduced speedily"

Under the new regulator, good social landlords will be freed from red tape, allowing them to concentrate on getting housing management services right and building more homes. Tenants and local councils will be able to trigger penalties by bringing concerns to the watchdog's attention.

Other key recommendations accepted by the Government under the Cave Review include:

* Plans to publish top-level information scoring landlords on the standard of housing, level of tenant satisfaction, operating costs and rents, allowing people to compare the quality of their landlords.

* A new 'national tenant voice' for social housing tenants. The body will ensure tenants can shape and influence policy and decision-making at local, regional and national Government.

Notes to Editors
1. The decision on the location of the new social housing regulator recommended in the Cave Review, was announced to Parliament today.

2. In December 2006, the Government asked Professor Martin Cave, Director of the Centre for Management under Regulation at Warwick University, to consider options for reform of social housing regulation.

3. Key recommendations of Professor Martin Cave's review, Every Tenant Matters: a review of social housing regulation, presented to the Government in June, include:
* Regulation of housing associations and investment in new social housing to be separate
* Regulator to be independent of Government, but subject to strategic directions on rent levels and standards
* Regulator has objective to empower and protect tenants
* Less regulation for housing associations who perform well
* Tenants and local authorities can trigger investigation by regulator by providing evidence of poor performance
* Wider range of intervention powers to deal with poor performance
* Duty for landlords to engage constructively with local authorities in their place-shaping function
* National tenant voice to be set up.

4. The full text of the review is available on the Communities and Local Government web-site at Every Tenant Matters: A review of social housing regulation: Full Report and Executive Summary by Professor Martin Cave

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