Jenrick on Social Housing Tenants

Jenrick: Social housing tenants ‘deserve to be treated with dignity and respect’

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said the new regulatory regime coming in with the Social Housing White Paper will tackle local authorities that “fall below” the correct standards.

He pointed out the recent case of Croydon Council, who were deemed non-complaint by the Regulator of Social Housing after an ITV investigation, as an organisation that had fallen “seriously short”.

He added: “That needs to change. All those living in social housing deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and when they have concerns, for their voices to be heard.

“I know that councils can do more and want to do more not just in this regard, but to build the homes your communities need and deserve.”

He was making the comments at the Local Government Association annual conference, where he also covered the planning system, the building of new homes and much more.

On building new homes, he said that “None of us want to see homes being built on green fields, even less so on the greenbelt. So, if we can use these flexibilities to build homes in our towns and city centres, that must be to the benefit of everyone.”

He praised councils for helping toward the 244,000 homes built last year, the highest in 30 years, but warned that there “was more to do”.

Jenrick added: “There’s no question, that the past year has been much harder for people stuck in smaller, substandard homes – or without a home at all – making our mission to address long-standing issues around affordability and delivering homes that meet people’s needs all the more urgent”.

He then spoke about increasing homeownership and for it not to be for “the lucky few” and the desire to increase it needing to “go beyond party politics”.

Help to Buy, Right to Buy, Shared Ownership, 95% mortgages, First Homes – all mentioned as positives on the demand side, but the Housing Secretary said there was now a need to focus on the supply side.

Jenrick pointed at the Affordable Homes Programme, the largest investment since 2010, as an example of the government’s commitment and also the mention of social rented homes in the programme as a dedication to that tenure.

On planning, the Housing Secretary spoke of replacing the “opaque” section 106 agreements with “much more predictable, transparent levies which will be locally set, locally levied which greater flexibility”.

He added: “In all, we’re taking power out of the hands of the big developers. We’re ensuring that there are fewer lawyers and consultants involved in the planning system and giving it back to local communities, to small builders and to democratically elected local councillors.”

Later on in the questions, Jenrick said of the Croydon Council housing company: “Failures like the Brick by Brick housing company that didn’t build a single house would be funny were the impact not on local people and the consequences not so long term.”

He also let on some potential ideas coming in the Planning White Paper, including changes to the Planning Inspectorate.

He said: “We want to create a planning system that genuinely trusts councils and treats councils as adults. The reforms we are bringing forward will say to councils that if you have a credible local plan, and then implementing it in a sensible way, in return for that the council should be able to get on with that job.

“The role of the Planning Inspectorate could be reconsidered for those councils with a track record of delivering.

“The approach that we will take is that local councils will be in the driving seat. If you have a plan, then you are in a much stronger position and won’t be hindered by the Planning Inspectorate. We need to trust councils that believe building new homes is part of the national and local priority.”

And on retrofitting homes, the Housing Secretary said that he will be lobbying the Chancellor so that “social tenants and those on low incomes can be supported” to make their homes net zero.

Jenrick was asked around bringing the Future Homes Standard forwards, to which he responded by saying the skills shortage was an issue.

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