The Social Housing Green Paper presents a shift in priorities and offers an opportunity for reform, writes Fusion21’s Andrew Gray
THERE are times in life when we wait for outcomes with baited breath – and I’ve experienced this twice in the last few weeks.
The first was anticipating the A-level results expected by four of my nieces and nephews – and the second was the publication of the Social Housing Green Paper which is seeking views on the Government’s vision for social housing.
I’m delighted to report that the ‘University experience’ will soon become a reality for my family members after getting their grades. Separately, I’ve been reading the long-awaited Social Housing Green Paper with interest, whilst mulling over some of the 48 questions the Secretary of State has outlined for consideration.
The answers to the questions and priorities outlined in the green paper will ultimately determine how the future direction of the sector is shaped. It’s abundantly clear that change is necessary – and those changes are going to impact on current and future generations, so they need to be done right.
The green paper sets out the priorities as proposed by the Government, which are set out in five key areas:
- Ensuring homes are safe and well managed
- The effective resolution of complaints
- Rebalancing relationships by empowering residents and strengthening the regulator
- Tackling the stigma associated with social housing and celebrating thriving communities
- Expanding supply and supporting home ownership
Ensuring homes are safe
IT goes without saying that ensuring homes are safe and compliant is an absolute priority and I personally welcome the opportunity of reviewing the Decent Homes Standard, making it fit for the future.
This is something that I feel incredibly passionate about, as a Fusion21 employee and also as a board member of a large North West social landlord. Did you know Fusion21 was initially created by seven social landlords in 2002 to collectively leverage greater procurement benefits during the roll out of the original Decent Homes Standard?
A review of the standard is now needed to go that step further – for example to ensure homes are thermally efficient and fit for a digital age. However, the question is, will a refined approach need additional resources? It’s important that we get the balance right – especially as pooling more resources into building new homes means less to maintain existing properties.
In the future we’ll be working with our housing association, ALMO and local authority members to listen to their views on how the standard can be developed to better respond to the needs of future generations.
Effective resolution of complaints
DEALING with complaints should be a very simple process with service level agreements firmly in place, communicated openly and followed accordingly. It’s essential that a best practice approach is developed.
A total of 25 questions in the green paper have been dedicated to this area. We all know that communication between residents and their landlords is key in addition to empowering residents to have a voice and understanding what is important to them.
We can’t underestimate the value of KPIs and league tables to monitor performance, how else can we address issues, seek improvements or measure success?
The green paper also requests consideration for innovative ways in which social landlords can ensure residents have greater choice over contractor services. From Fusion21’s perspective, it is important that residents have a say in how services are shaped so we can involve them in future procurement opportunities where possible.
Tackling the stigma associated with social housing and celebrating thriving communities
THE questions in this section reflect on years of negative media stories. As a sector we still have some work to due to change perceptions and any stigma associated with social housing, although we have been working hard to change mindsets and share the tonnes of positive stories we hear about daily, making a difference to people’s lives.
We will certainly be lending our support by continuing to develop and share case studies, highlighting all of the fantastic work that is achieved through our members’ procurement and social value commitments.
Expanding supply and supporting home ownership
I’M sure you will all agree that innovation is a must when it comes to funding the future building of affordable homes – and also maintaining existing homes. The ability to drive efficiencies is a large contributing factor to success, and one that can be achieved by delivering more value for money, without compromising on quality standards.
So what next?
ALL of us who are involved with the social housing sector know that reform is much needed, and with the Government now better aligned to sector needs, I hope this is the first step to a much brighter future for our communities, residents and all of the businesses that like us are dedicated to making a real impact.
Andrew Gray is business development manager at Fusion21