social housing regulation

What is the social housing sector’s view of government policy?

Nine different housing ministers came and went in England from 2010 to 2020, resulting in a lack of stable and coherent policy. But with Christopher Pincher now a year into the job, and planning reform and tenant safety plans finally published, and with the Scottish Minister, Kevin Stewart, continuing work on the wide reform to Scotland’s planning system, how do social housing leaders feel about the regulatory landscape in 2021? 

In our annual Health of the Sector survey, we asked 104 social housing leaders for their views on government policy and regulation. 

Here’s what they told us about the ongoing welfare reform roll-out, the Building Safety Bill, changes to board tenures, and more. 

Will the proposed Building Safety Bill improve building safety?

Will the proposed Building Safety Bill improve building safety?

Alongside the Social Housing White Paper and the NHF’s revised Code of Governance, the Building Safety Bill is another key part of the response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy in England. It aims to ensure greater accountability for safety at each stage of the development of residential buildings.

Two thirds of our respondents believe it will achieve its aim, but almost a third are unsure.

On 10 February 2021, the Government announced £3.5bn to fully fund the removal of unsafe cladding on all residential buildings of six storeys or more. A low-interest financing scheme will help remove cladding from lower-rise buildings, and there’ll be a new levy on the development of new high-rise buildings. 

In our 2020 survey, 86 per cent of people in England and Wales were not expecting the UK Government to make policy changes that would cut their rental income. There’s been a big change in sentiment in 2021 – with only 60 per cent confident that the UK Government won't impose further rent cuts.

We noted in our article on the sector’s key governance challenges that many social housing organisations have built up surpluses over the last year. This uncertainty around policy may show that the sector thinks Government may use those surpluses as leverage to cut housing benefit costs.

Do you think there will be any rent cuts through any ‘surprise government policy’ announcement within the next two years?

Do you think there will be any rent cuts through any ‘surprise government policy’ announcement within the next two years?

Has the ongoing roll out of the Welfare Reform Act had a positive or negative impact?

Has the ongoing roll out of the Welfare Reform Act had a positive or negative impact?

Has the ongoing roll out of the Welfare Reform Act had a positive or negative impact?

Welfare reform is still overwhelmingly seen as having a negative impact on both tenants and organisations, despite some sizeable shifts in opinion from negative to positive since 2020.

As in previous years, this is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Government's flagship policy. In Scotland, it was an outright rejection: 100 per cent of Scottish respondents said welfare reforms had been bad for tenants and organisations alike.

When we asked where the biggest impacts will be felt, again our responses were consistent with previous surveys – significant numbers expect to incur more bad debts and increased credit control and administration costs.

This year, more respondents (18 per cent vs. 12 per cent in 2020) expect increased voids will have the biggest impact on them. This may be a recognition of the fact that, while stock turnover has been low, units that do become empty may stay empty longer due to the ongoing pandemic.

In light of the articulated Government policy for social housing, what strategic actions are you taking?

What are the key effects of Brexit to your organisation?

In light of the articulated Government policy for social housing, what strategic actions are you taking?
In light of the articulated Government policy for social housing, what strategic actions are you taking?

With the publication in England of the planning and social housing white papers in 2020, Government policy is considerably more articulated now than in previous years when we’ve asked this question.

As we found with our question on development funding, 2021 social housing strategies are focused on core activity rather than exploring the unknown. Fewer respondents are considering diversification or mergers, while large numbers will prioritise cost saving and investment in affordable and social homes.

Contact us for support and advice

Keith Ward 

Our social housing specialists can help you understand the impact of government regulation and policy, and plan the right way forward for your organisation and tenants.

Contact Keith Ward, our Head of Social Housing, to discuss your challenges. 


Get more insight from our 2021 survey

Want to know more about how the social housing sector has fared over the last 12 months? Interested in what social housing organisations have got planned for the months ahead?

Read the next articles in this series for a snapshot of the health of the sector in 2021:

social housing governance

What governance challenges are social housing leaders facing in 2021?
See what social housing boards have got planned for staff salaries, pensions contributions, rent increases, and more.

Read more

social housing organisations

How are social housing organisations adapting and changing in 2021?
How is the social housing sector embracing new technologies, methods of construction, and environmental concerns? Find out here.

Read more