For those campaigning to fix the rules around housing, most Queen’s Speeches have been an exercise in expectation management.
We hear the short remarks from the Queen or, today, Prince Charles, and don’t hear what we need on housing. Then we wait on the supportive document being released and search for what’s needed on housing and don’t see much. Warm and very brief words on the promise to fix the rental sector and social housing regulation without the details as to how. Another Parliamentary year without the issues we need fixing being taken on and so the housing emergency continues to grow.
But this year was a bit different. It was a genuine thrill to hear the Prince of Wales say today that the government would ‘improve the regulation of social housing, strengthen the rights of tenants and ensure better quality safer homes.’ A statement of intent that was, at the very least, a major change in how the government is approaching housing after decades of neglect – and all thanks to the work of so many amazing campaigners.
Looking at the supporting document that sits behind the big Speech, it is clear that the government has finally listened to the voices of social housing tenants. The government document says: ‘my Government will introduce legislation to improve the regulation of social housing to strengthen the rights of tenants and ensure better quality, safer homes.’ That’s very welcome indeed. The bill shall enable the Regulator to inspect landlords and take tougher action against poorly performing landlords, as well as increasing tenants’ rights to access information about their landlord. It’ll be so important that better regulation means regular, detailed inspections to check landlords are meeting standards.
Meanwhile, for years those in the private rented sector have had the odds stacked against them. They’ve no way of knowing if their home meets basic standards of decency before they move in, and live with the risk of a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction if they should complain. Today those renters finally had a response to their call for a fair and proper system. The document made clear that the Renters’ Reform Bill will abolish no fault evictions, and bring in a portal so tenants can check their landlord is decent – which sounds a lot like what we’ve been campaigning for.
Let’s be clear – this is very good news indeed. These changes are what we and so many have been campaigning on for years. And it is also welcome news for social housing tenants. Thanks to the tireless campaigning of Grenfell United, Kwajo Tweneboa and others, we’re now much closer to making sure social landlords are held to account for substandard housing management and maintenance by a properly empowered regulator.
One thing missing from the Queen’s Speech was a promise to unlock a new era of social housing. Without it, we will never fix our broken housing system. That said, there were promises to ‘improve the planning system to give communities a louder voice, making sure developments are beautiful, green and accompanied by new infrastructure and affordable housing.’ If that affordable housing means more of the genuinely affordable housing at social rent this would be good news indeed, but we need to see more before we can celebrate this.
And so we now need to make sure these changes actually happen. This country’s 20 million renters have waited long enough for reform – it’s time for the government to deliver on its promises today and make these changes law. The government announced a lot of different Bills today (not all as positive as these) and there is only so much time to get them through Parliament. The promises made today have to be kept – so now the work begins to get these Bills into law.
Join us as we win the fight for home.