An MHCLG official has given the sector a heads-up that ministers will be looking closely at the sector’s energy-efficiency performance.
Speaking at Future of Housing, Jane Everton CBE, who is deputy director of social housing at MHCLG, said the sector “can expect a focus on energy efficiency from ministers and how housing can deliver”.
She said that currently “just over half of social housing is not up to EPC rating C”, despite some good work in the social sector.
Standing in place of housing minister Esther McVey, who dropped out amid rumours she is on her way out of the department, Everton gave more detail on what to expect from the Social Housing White Paper.
Everton said: “The Conservative manifesto put a strong importance on bringing forward the Social Housing White Paper and empowering tenants.
“Social housing tenants have told us that they wanted homes that are safe and decent, an effective resolution of complaints, strengthened regulator, and a challenging of negative stereotypes.”
Building on the regulation side, Everton added: “The current system of redress is confusing for tenants. Very few tenants knew of the Housing Ombudsman or the regulator.
“For social tenants, we will be speeding up formal referrals to the Housing Ombudsman.”
Although remaining tight-lipped over the Budget, Everton did hint at what may be in the offing for the sector.
“We are awaiting the budget, but we see from the manifesto that there’s a desire to carry on the Affordable Homes Programme.
“Housing associations continue to play a vital part in delivering new social homes. We want to ensure that housing associations can play their part.”
Everton’s address led into a panel discussion on tenant engagement, where regulation and innovation were buzz words.
Jenny Osbourne, chief executive at Tpas, said there needed to be “strong regulation” if there is to be effective regulation.
She added: “I don’t see regulation and innovation being in conflict with one another in tenant engagement.”
She also lamented the fact that there “is a long way to go before tenants’ priorities are included in the priorities of the business”.
Victoria Elvidge, board member at LEASE, said the sector needs to remember “one size doesn’t fit all in resident engagement – you’re talking about people and they’re all different”.
She later called on housing to “find leaders in our resident groups” that can maximise engagement among other residents.
Aasia Nasir was also on the panel and said there was a need for the whole organisation to live the tenant-engagement culture: “I think it is crucial that the board are on board with resident engagement.
“We make sure that board members come to resident meetings and see what things are like on the ground. They need that reality check.”