The new Government White Paper
The proposals in the government’s new bill, or ‘White Paper’ explain what rights and services every social housing tenant in England is entitled to expect from their landlords.
The new bill includes a number of improved rights and services for social housing residents, some of which we are already planning and starting to offer.
Safe, Secure and Happy Homes
To make sure you feel safe and happy in your home, we are working on new and detailed information about the fire and structural arrangements in our blocks and schemes to help you understand both your responsibilities and ours. We are also making sure you know exactly how to raise concerns if you need to.
Following the terrible tragedy of Grenfell Tower, and the new standards for the cladding systems which are allowed to be fitted on buildings, we will be replacing the cladding systems on two of our buildings. The cladding systems in place are not ACM based (aluminium composite material) and we want to ensure new, higher standards of cladding are installed to these buildings to keep residents and their homes as safe as possible. Safety measures will continue to change in the future as regulations come into play, and we will update your homes with any necessary improvements to make sure you stay safe.
Safety measures will continue to change in the future as regulations come into play, and we will make sure we are on top of any changes needed to make sure you stay safe.
The government's Decent Homes Standard sets a minimum quality standard for social housing, and over 95% of our homes reach that standard. Where they don’t, we are making plans for their future, whether to invest and modernise, or whether to demolish and rebuild, always in consultation with residents. The standard states homes must be free of serious hazards, in a reasonable state of repair, have reasonably modern facilities and services, and have efficient heating and insulation. The last condition can present a lot of work when it comes to decarbonising our homes, but we will work to address our responsibilities under climate change with the new homes we build and the investments we make in our existing homes.
Wherever your home is, you have a right to feel safe, without the fear and worry anti-social behaviour and crime can cause. With the greater powers given to us in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, we can work more closely with local police forces and agencies to tackle anti-social behaviour, secure convictions and support victims.
How we are Performing
We want you to be able to hold us to account. To do that, you need information on how we perform as a business. The government wants us to be completely open with you and put you at the heart of our decisions at all times. We already work hard to do this. Our audited accounts and our annual performance to residents are published on our website, but you will be entitled to know more about how we spend your money in the future, and you will be able to challenge us if you feel we aren’t being completely honest. We also need to show how we keep your homes in good repair and what work we are doing on safety measures, such as gas, electric, asbestos and fire, resident engagement, complaints and neighbourhood management.
A New Complaints Service
We must resolve your complaints in our own set timescales and make sure you are satisfied with the result. Our new and improved complaints policy has done away with the confusion of ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ complaints and will treat all complaints fairly and equally, in a more accountable way to reassure you that we are listening and acting on what you say. If that process ever goes wrong, the Housing Ombudsman has published a new Complaint Handling Code which makes sure housing associations learn from their mistakes and improve their complaints service.
Listening to You
We’ve always known that to be a great landlord, we need to involve you and listen to you. We do that in many ways; with surveys and focus groups for instance, but whatever method we use, we always try to make sure it works best for you. There are those of you who want to work closely with us, and there are those of you who are just happy to get a good service and know we are thinking of you. We have a resident on the Accent Board of Management, and residents on our customer experience committee who work hard to make sure your views are represented, and that we take every piece of your feedback into account when making decisions which affect your services. We are always looking at new ways of engaging with you to make sure we are delivering the services you have a right to expect.
Looking after your neighbourhoods
We know that it is not only the quality of your homes that it is important to you, but where they are. We know many of you want to take pride in your community, but can feel let down with the quality of some of our estate services. This year has been particularly difficult with the pandemic, but we have maintained estate services as best as we can. Where standards have slipped, we are working on improvements. We have invested in green spaces where we’ve had the chance and supported local community projects and councils to look after the spaces we’ve found invaluable for our health and wellbeing this year.
Building more affordable homes
Our new development strategy talks about our plans to build at least 500 new homes each year. Through the government’s Affordable Homes Programme, we receive grant to build affordable homes for rent and sale, and we do this where there is identified housing need. In areas where affording a home is almost impossible, our shared ownership homes offer local residents the chance to get on the property ladder. The government wants to reduce the minimum shares that can be bought in shared ownership (to 10% from 25%) to give even more people a chance to own a home. We are already working to support the changes planned for shared ownership.
Where the government wants housing associations to offer existing residents the right to buy, we will look at those areas and properties individually to see if they benefit residents and the local communities they are in, and make sure we can replace any that are sold with new homes for rent for people in housing need.
Supporting our Leaseholders
With the government’s plans to reform the leasehold market, we welcome the opportunity to make sure our leaseholders feel listened to, valued and supported. We know that always hasn’t been the case, and we are working to change that. We will improve how we explain our charges, look at how we can lower the risks of large or unexpected charges, and improve our performance in managing our neighbourhoods and services. We will also look at how we can engage more leaseholders to work with us so their views can be fully represented and the services they receive from us can be further improved.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government includes more detail on the government’s plans for improving services in the new Social Housing Charter.