After the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2019, government started looking at social housing provider reform.  Four years’ later and it has finally introduced the 2023 Social Housing (Regulation) Act , which amended the 2008 Housing and Regeneration Act to incorporate some if its ideas from the 2020 social housing white paper .  Still following?

The 2023 Act gives the government the power to issue a “Code of Practice” in relation to consumer standards.  Until now, the 2017 Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard has remained the focus for our industry, applicable to registered providers of social housing in England.  It requires them to involve tenants in the making of decisions about how housing-related services are delivered.

However, it is going to get succeeded by a “Transparency, Influence and Accountability Standard” – which also covers how tenants can influence decision making and hold their landlord to account.   The essence of this standard is that “Registered providers must treat all tenants with fairness and respect”.  For those interested, the consultation on this is still open until 17th of October.

Ultimately, registered providers must take tenants’ views into account in their decision making about how landlord services are delivered. Key points about the consultation and engagement related changes under consideration are: –

  • Registered providers must give tenants a wide range of meaningful opportunities to influence and scrutinise their landlord’s strategies, policies and services. This includes in relation to the neighbourhood where applicable;
  • Registered providers must assist tenants who wish to implement tenant-led activities to influence and scrutinise their landlord’s strategies, policies and services;
  • Registered providers, working with tenants, must regularly consider ways to improve and tailor their approach to delivering landlord services including tenant engagement. They must implement changes as appropriate to ensure services deliver the intended aims;
  • Where a registered provider is considering a change in landlord for one or more tenants, or a significant change in management arrangements, it must consult affected tenants on its proposals at a formative stage and take those views into account in reaching a decision;
  • The Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard currently expects landlords to demonstrate they understand the different needs of tenants. The proposed Transparency, Influence and Accountability Standard goes further, requiring landlords to use information and data to inform their understanding of how they will meet the different needs of tenants. For example, equalities data and equalities impact assessments;
  • Landlords need to identify the most appropriate methods for their organisation and their tenants and make effective use of the information they get from engagement when making decisions about how landlord services are delivered.

In terms of other relevant standards, the new “Neighborhood and Community Standard” requires landlords to engage with other relevant parties so that tenants can live in safe and well-maintained neighbourhoods and feel safe in their homes. It recognises that landlords will not always be the primary organisation responsible for all aspects of the neighbourhoods where they manage homes; but they can achieve better outcomes for tenants by working with other organisations operating in these areas.

The relevant point about engagement in this standard is for social housing providers to: –

  • Identify and communicate to tenants the roles registered providers play in promoting social, environmental and economic wellbeing and how they will achieve them.

To conclude, the reforms spell out the need for a more robust approach in the sector which is likely to require more domain expertise, new processes and systems. For example, enable more bottom-up engagement methods and invoke new power levers – such as a petition scheme . 

Our interpretation of ‘effective use of feedback in decision making’ is that it’s the same as Gunning 4 (conscientious consideration must be given to the consultation responses before a decision is made). This means we need much more transparency and accountability – time to invest in a consultation platform, perhaps?

 If you need solutions, come and talk to us – we’ll be happy to share our thoughts.