20 October: The government’s Review of Social Housing Regulation, published on 18 October, sets out the key elements of the regulatory framework that will replace the Tenant Services Authority when it is abolished.
A new HouseMark briefing sets out the main proposals and makes a preliminary assessment of the implications for the social housing sector.
- The TSA regulatory responsibilities will move across to the Homes and Communities Agency.
- Economic regulation of housing associations will remain in very much its present form, but with an explicit new obligation on the regulator to act in a ‘proactive’ manner to achieve greater value for money from landlords.
- Consumer regulation will continue to apply to both housing associations and local authorities, but the role of the regulator will be ‘reactive’ - in future, the HCA will only provide 'back stop’ consumer regulation, as almost the entire responsibility for ‘consumer protection’ (as it is renamed) passes to local level.
- Landlords will be expected to support tenant panels - or equivalent bodies - to give tenants the opportunity to scrutinise the services being offered and to be involved in resolving disputes.
- Consumer protection will focus on tenant complaints.
- The proposals depend on powers to be included in the Localism Bill and are to due to take effect from April 2012.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:
“Social tenants know when things are going wrong with homes in their area. And when this happens, they want to be able to fix the problems quickly and easily, not sit around waiting for a remote inspection regime run from Whitehall.
“That's why we're changing how this is done. Consumer protection is going local - tenants will now be able to hold landlords to account with the help of their local representatives, and though panels that they set up and control themselves.
“At the same time the vital economic regulation of the sector as a whole will continue. The new regulator will be able to focus its energies on ensuring that taxpayers' money spent on social housing goes further, and give lenders the confidence they need to invest funds in building more social homes.”Abigail Davies, head of policy at the Chartered Institute of Housing, told 24dash.com:
“The major change is that consumer regulation becomes reactive rather than proactive. That’s better than we thought because we thought consumer regulation would go completely.
“Really it is taking the sector to where the TSA wanted it to be in five years in just 18 months. So the challenge therefore is to make sure that there are active tenants in all local areas, that they’re strong in all local areas, and the councillors and MPs and housing providers work towards those enhanced models of scrutiny which some are already going towards.”