Today, the long-awaited Social Housing (Regulation) Act received Royal Assent and became law.
This legislation is the legacy of the 72 people, including 18 children, who died in summer 2017 as a result of the catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower in West London. They will never be forgotten. They will be forever in our hearts.
A lasting legacy for social tenants
After years of demanding positive change to protect current and future tenants, today marks an important day. The new law should mean social homes are well managed and well maintained – and residents are treated with dignity and respect by professional housing managers.
This legislation is a testament to the survivors, bereaved and residents of Grenfell Tower and the wider Lancaster West Estate, who have spent almost six years relentlessly fighting for justice and closure.
And to many other social tenants up and down the country, including Rob Gershon and Kwajo Tweneboa, who campaigned alongside them. Plus, the work of campaigning journalists such as, Inside Housing’s Peter Apps, ITV’s Dan Hewitt and the Manchester Evening News’ Stephen Topping.
Shelter is proud to have stood in solidarity with Grenfell United to support them in achieving this momentus change in the law. Grenfell United’s Ed Daffarn was a driving force on our 2018 Social Housing Commission’s recommendations on regulation. Our supporters have helped keep the momentum going through many set-backs and delays.
Thank you to everyone who took action.
This legislation is also the legacy of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who died in December 2020 as a result of the extensive mould in his Rochdale home. It’s ‘Awaab’s Law’ measures should protect other children and their families from serious hazards in their homes.
A long fight
We commend the government and parliament for listening to tenants and finally coming good on its promises of a new charter for social tenants. However, it has been a long time coming. No one should have to fight for change following the trauma of losing a loved-one, surviving an horrific disaster or losing their home. It’s taken over six years since the Grenfell Tower fire get this change in the law.
What does the Act do?
This legislation is a huge step forward in making sure social housing is well-regulated on the things that matter to tenants.
As the government proposed in 2018, it reintroduces proactive regulation of the consumer standards for social homes, by removing the ‘serious detriment test’, which limited the Regulator of Social Housing to only reactive intervention once people were at risk. Proactive regulation had been removed by the Coalition Government’s deregulation agenda. It also gives the Regulator tougher enforcement powers, such as unlimited fines.
Thanks to campaigning by Grenfell United (supported by Shelter), the legislation:
- requires the Regulator to set out a plan for regular inspections of social landlords, which should act as a deterrent to bad practice
- introduces new, robust consumer standards (in addition to the four existing consumer standards), e.g. to make sure landlords are professionally qualified and are transparent in providing information to tenants.
And thanks to campaigning for ‘Awaab’s Law’ it:
- gives the secretary of state power to make regulations requiring landlords to investigate and rectify serious hazards, such as damp/mould and fire safety, within specified timeframes.
What happens now?
While the Act provides a strong legislative framework, the key to how much things change for residents will be how robustly it’s implemented.
We want the secretary of state to:
- give strong ‘Directions to the Regulator’ on the new consumer standards
- regulate on tough timeframes for landlords to investigate and address serious hazards
- support the establishment of a National Voice for Social Tenants or National Tenants’ Union so residents of social homes can’t be ignored in the future.
We want the Regulator of Social Housing to:
- set out a plan for tough, regular Ofsted-style inspections of all social landlords, which involve asking tenants where inspections should be focussed
- set new and stronger consumer standards for social homes, covering the things that matter most to tenants.
We want registered providers of social homes to:
- be serious about improving the management, maintenance and modernisation of the homes they let out
- make sure their housing managers are professionally qualified and respond quickly to tenants concerns and complaints about their tenancies, homes and estates
- be actively anti-racist and make sure all their tenants feel they’re treated with dignity and respect.
Invest in desperately needed social homes
Stronger regulation alone won’t improve conditions in social housing. Investment is what’s needed.
For far too long, successive governments have failed to invest in this vital public asset: the council and housing association homes that our country desperately needs. In the 2010 austerity Budget, social housing had the heaviest austerity cut – 60% – as well as deregulation.
The result is our housing emergency: over a million households on social housing waiting lists, more than 100,000 households homeless and stuck in damaging, unregulated temporary accommodation, and over three thousand people on the streets – a rise of 26% in a year despite the government’s election promise to end rough sleeping by 2024.
Investment in decent and affordable social homes won’t just solve homelessness. It will mean existing tenants living in overcrowded or hazardous homes will have more chance of a new home to move into. Investment in well-managed social housing is investment in health and social care.
It’s time for politicians of all parties to show their commitment to ending our housing emergency, promising investment in a new generation of social housing, fit for 21st century living.