Housing associations at risk of exclusion from grant schemes if repairs do not meet standards
Access to Mayor Sadiq Khan’s social housing grant programmes could be denied to London housing associations if homes they manage fall into disrepair.
Speaking to Inside Housing, deputy mayor for housing Tom Copley said of the current state of disrepair: “It is appalling, and there’s no doubt the sector itself collectively has dropped the ball. They’ve not been as focused on management and standards as they should be.”
He added: “We recently wrote to all of our delivery partners to let them know we’re introducing new funding conditions in our programme relating to management standards.
“Any action we take will be proportionate, but we’re very, very clear with our partners that [funding being taken away] is a very, very real risk for them.”
Sadiq Khan’s Affordable Homes Programme 2021-2026 (AHP) has a £4bn budget, which the mayor has committed to maximising the number of new homes in London, over half of which will be at social rent.
Eligibility for the grant funding already includes mandatory design, building safety and sustainability standards which investment partners are required to self-certify compliance with in advance of receiving payments.
Among the conditions are stipulations for the installation of Automatic Fire Suppression Systems, including (but not limited to) sprinklers, and that no combustible materials may be used in the external walls of all homes and buildings, regardless of their height.
London housing associations, stock-holding local authorities and for-profit providers are all among those allocated money from the AHP grant scheme.
In the same interview, Mr Copley was asked about the balance between penalising landlords for maintenance issues with meeting housing targets:
“At the end of the day, we’re not a regulator. But we do, I think, have a responsibility, given that we fund these organisations, to take a firm line with them where they’re not maintaining their existing stock properly. And it’s absolutely right for that threat to be hanging over them if they don’t bring their standards up.”
Meanwhile, the Government has announced Awaab’s Law to force social landlords to fix damp and mould within strict time limits, in a new amendment to the Social Housing Regulation Bill.
The new legislation comes in the wake of the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, caused by the damp and mould in his home, which was managed by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.
The Government continues to block funding to Rochdale Boroughwide Housing to build new homes until it can prove it is a responsible landlord.
A consultation will be launched later this year to set the timeframes within which landlords will have to act to investigate hazards and make repairs.
The new rules will form part of the tenancy agreement, so tenants can hold landlords to account by law if they fail to provide a decent home.
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove said: “Those landlords who continue to drag their feet over dangerous damp and mould will face the full force of the law.
“Our Social Housing Bill will enshrine tenants’ rights in law and strengthen the Housing Ombudsman and Regulator’s powers so that poor social landlords have nowhere to hide.
“Awaab’s Law will help to ensure that homes across the country are safe, decent and warm.”