In July 2011 the Government published a consultation paper seeking views on draft directions proposed to be given by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to the Social Housing Regulator. This document summarises the consultation responses, sets out the Government’s response and includes the final directions intended for issue.
The consultation set out the policy context for each of the draft directions and set out a number of questions. The proposed directions were on tenure, mutual exchange, tenant involvement and empowerment, rents and quality of accommodation. The consultation ran for 12 weeks, closing at the end of September 2011, and there were 209 responses.
As stated in the consultation document, the Government is taking forward significant reforms to the regulatory system for social housing. These changes were recommended by the Review of Social Housing Regulation, published in October 20101. The Review’s recommendations are reflected in the Localism Act. The Review’s proposals encompassed institutional changes and reforms to the regulatory system. In terms of institutional changes, the Review recommended that the Tenant Services Authority should be abolished and responsibility for regulation should be transferred to the Homes and Communities Agency. This recommendation was in line with the Government’s commitment to reduce the number of quangos. In order to ensure the continued independence of regulation, the Review proposed that regulatory functions and powers should be vested in a statutory Regulation Committee within the Homes and Communities Agency. The Review envisaged that the vast majority of individual service failures could be resolved
through the social housing complaints process without any need for intervention by the Regulator.
Through the Localism Act, the Government is taking forward reforms to improve the capacity of the complaints process to provide speedy and effective redress where tenants receive a poor service. The Housing Ombudsman will become the single, specialist ombudsman for all complaints about social landlords, taking on responsibility for complaints relating to local authority landlords from the Local Government Ombudsman. The Act also strengthens the role of local representatives, MPs, councillors and tenant panels, in the complaints system. This will allow more complaints to be resolved locally, as well as enhancing the role of local representatives as advocates on behalf of tenants. The Review concluded that, by enhancing local scrutiny mechanisms and strengthening the complaints process, regulatory intervention on consumer protection issues could be scaled back. The recommendation was that the Regulator’s consumer protection role should be restricted to setting clear national standards and addressing only serious failures against those standards.