The Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Committee has announced that it will open an inquiry into the quality and regulation of social housing in England.
The cross-party committee said it “will examine concerns about the quality of social housing, with a focus on the ability of the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) and the Housing Ombudsman to identify and address problems”.
A spokesperson for the RSH said: “We welcome the HCLG Committee’s new inquiry into social housing regulation and look forward to contributing to it.”
The Housing Ombudsman said it had no comment to make at this stage.
The quality of social housing stock in England has come under scrutiny this year, following high-profile media exposure detailing poor living conditions for some social housing tenants.
The committee has also promised to look into the proposals in the government’s Social Housing White Paper, which was published in January with the goal of improving engagement with and accountability to tenants, following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
The inquiry will also explore the financial pressures facing social landlords around the costs of building-safety work and retrofitting properties to make them more energy efficient, following reports that this hampers the ability to improve the quality of social housing stock.
Clive Betts, chair of the HCLG Committee, said: “Social housing plays a vital role in giving people a secure and affordable home, offering those in social housing protection from the rising costs and insecurity of private renting.
“Beyond the need for action to tackle the lack of social housing in England, questions also need to be asked about the quality of existing social housing and how the complaints of residents can be better handled and resolved.
“Stories of dilapidated social housing and tales of housing associations failing to respond to residents’ complaints call into question the effectiveness of the existing regulatory regime and how far the government’s white paper proposals go to help ensure tenants are treated properly and fairly.
“In our inquiry, we want to explore concerns around the quality of social housing and whether the current regime for the regulation of social housing is fit for purpose.”
The committee has made a request for evidence on the terms of reference ahead of a series of public evidence hearings, which it said are likely to begin in early 2022.
The closing date for evidence submissions is 21 December.
The terms of reference for evidence are:
- How widespread and serious are the concerns about the quality of social housing?
- What is the impact on social housing providers’ resources, and therefore their ability to maintain and improve their housing stock, of the need to remediate building safety risks and retrofit their homes to make them more energy efficient?
- Is the current regime for regulating social housing fit for purpose?
- How clearly defined are the roles of the Regulator of Social Housing and the Housing Ombudsman?
- Does the current regime allow tenants to effectively resolve issues?
- Do the regulator and ombudsman have sufficient powers to take action against providers?
- Will the reforms proposed in the Social Housing White Paper improve the regime and what progress has been made on implementing those reforms?
- What changes, if any, should the government make to the Decent Homes Standard?
- Should the Decent Homes Standard be amended to include energy efficiency and other means of mitigating climate change, and if so how?
- Should all providers of social housing, not just councils, be required to register with the regulator?
- What challenges does the diversification of social housing providers pose for the regulatory system?