Social Housing and Regeneration Shake-up

United Kingdom

The Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 has created new arrangements for social housing and stimulating regeneration. The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) will now take over the roles and responsibilities previously held by the Housing Corporation and English Partnerships. This is a major shake-up in the management of social housing, and places increased emphasis on participation by social housing tenants in decisions which affect them.

The Act draws the many roles and responsibilities for social housing together under the responsibility of the HCA, creating an opportunity for HCA to use its regeneration powers to boost the creation of new social housing and the maintenance of existing housing stock.

The Act also created two other new bodies: the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) and the National Tenant Voice (NTV).

TSA: The TSA is the regulator for social housing, taking over many of the functions previously carried out by English Partnerships and the Housing Corporation. By April 2010 TSA will regulate all social housing providers (not just RSLs and not-for profit organisations), including local authority landlords and arms length management organisations.

The TSA is drawing up new national standards for social housing. Consultation on the draft standards is open until 5 February 2010. TSA is also producing good practice notes for providers of social housing. Developers should consider the consultation drafts of the new standards carefully, as changes to required standards may affect the viability of schemes with a high proportion of affordable social housing.

NTV: The aim of the NTV is to increase the collective influence of social tenants on policies that affect them. The NTV’s role is currently restricted to representing tenants of social housing, and not tenants in private rented accommodation. However, NTV intends to expand its remit later to include representing the interests of private tenants. NTV will have a board of directors, which will include tenant members. Below board level, the National Tenant Council will comprise 50 tenants, of whom 24 will be nominated from existing tenant organisations and 26 will be nominated through open recruitment. The NTV is expected to be up and running by early 2010. The NTV’s role is described as encompassing four main areas: advocacy, research, communication and supporting existing national and regional tenants’ associations. The NTV will receive Government funding each year for its work. NTV will become a key consultee for Government, where changes to policies affecting tenants are proposed. The NTV has the potential to be very influential in shaping policy relating to social housing. The full proposals for NTV are set out in the report “Citizens of Equal Worth: The Project Group's Proposals for the National Tenant Voice”.

Regeneration and compulsory purchase

In addition to housing responsibilities, the HCA has a regeneration role, backed up by powers of compulsory purchase. The Government has recently published proposed changes to Appendix C of Circular 06/2004 (Compulsory Purchase and the Crichel Down Rules). The new draft Appendix C sets out Government guidance on the exercise of compulsory purchase powers by the HCA. The update to Appendix C is necessary to reflect the creation of the HCA.

The changes will be of interest to any landowners whose land may be part of an allocation for housing or regeneration, or for developers who may be interested in developing sites assembled by the HCA.

Key points to note where the HCA proposes to make a compulsory purchase order:

  • HCA must justify its use of powers by showing that the order is for the purposes of the HCA’s objects.
  • The reasons must be set out in a detailed Statement of Reasons.
  • The proposals must be consistent with policies in the development plan, and for larger schemes must be part of the implementation of Regional Spatial Strategy or Regional Economic Strategy.
  • As with all compulsory purchase orders, the HCA must demonstrate that the exercise of its powers is clearly in the public interest.
  • Factors the Secretary of State must consider when deciding whether to confirm a compulsory purchase order by the HCA include: whether the land is in need of housing development or regeneration; whether the development is more likely to be achieved if land is acquired by the HCA; whether alternatives put forward by land owners are capable of being implemented; and the timetable for completion of the proposed development.

The HCA’s powers are in addition to local authority powers of acquisition under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The draft Appendix C explains that the HCA’s powers of acquisition are likely to be used for assembly of sites of “significant regional, sub-regional or inter-regional importance”.

To view a copy of the proposed changes click here. The closing date for comments on the draft is 11 January 2010.