Involve, revitalise, improve

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                                  at-a-glance guide · 1

Involve, revitalise, improve.
The housing Green Paper and the
National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal:
the Housing Corporation’s response

New strategies for a new century

Earlier this year, the Government published two policy
documents for consultation, both of which emphasised the
importance of improving the quality of life of individuals and

   • The housing Green Paper, Quality and Choice: a
   decent home for all, published by the Department of the
   Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), aims to
   offer ‘everyone the opportunity of a decent home and so
   promote social cohesion, well-being and self-dependence’.
   It is the first comprehensive review of housing policy for
   23 years.

   • The National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal
   (SNR), published by the Social Exclusion Unit, draws on
   the work of 18 Policy Action Teams in setting out a draft
   strategy to renew and revitalise deprived neighbourhoods.

We welcome the long-term vision presented in the two
documents. They give all parties – the Corporation, local
authorities, housing associations, and, crucially, tenants and
residents – the opportunity to contribute to the development of
a new strategic direction for social housing in the 21st century.
 2                                            At a glance guide: 1

We particularly support their     Key issues for the
emphasis on:                      Corporation

• quality: both the physical      We have an important role in
fabric of the nation’s homes      shaping this new strategic
and neighbourhoods and the        direction for revitalising homes
services provided;                and neighbourhoods. We will
                                  want to work closely with
• choice: the recognition         housing associations and other
given to treating tenants as      stakeholders as proposals take
consumers and to empowering       shape over the coming months;
communities so that renewal       in particular, we will want to
strategies are successful, both   ensure that consumers of social
in the short- and long-term;      housing are kept informed and
and                               are consulted on the key
                                  aspects of the policy debate.
• improved performance:
the need for all agencies –       In our responses, we draw out
including the Corporation – to    the following conclusions on
continually improve what we do    several issues that lie at the
and the way services are          heart of that debate:
delivered, taking into account
the needs and wishes of           • Fairer rents, more
tenants and residents.            affordable homes: We have
                                  no doubt about the case for
                                  action on housing association
                                  rents. The combination of
                                  proposals for restructuring rents
                                  and for limiting annual
                                  increases to Retail Price Index
                                  (RPI)-flat could be far reaching –
                                  for tenants, housing
                                  associations and the continued
                                  diversity of the sector. We need
Involve – Revitalise – Improve                                  3

to see and assess the results of    approaches will be required if
research now underway before        residents are to be more active
final decisions are taken. We       in our regulation of associations
will also need to ensure the        – including the setting up of a
new policy is applied flexibly to   Corporation inspection service.
minimise disruption for both        We must ensure that increased
associations and their tenants;     efficiency and lower rents do
                                    not mean short-term cuts in on-
• Promoting a community             the-spot management services
revival: Housing associations       or long term maintenance;
are key players in
neighbourhood regeneration –        • Patterns of ownership: In
and will be so to an even           many areas, there are now a
greater extent as the local         large number of housing
authority stock transfer            associations with small amounts
programme continues its rapid       of stock. Patterns of stock
growth. We will need to             ownership will have significant
examine patterns of stock           implications for the ability of
ownership and be clear about        housing associations to respond
where resources will come from      to the Government’s objectives.
to pay for non-housing              Associations whose homes are
initiatives that can contribute     spread over a wide
greatly to the success of           geographical area may need to
neighbourhood renewal               consider the options for
strategies;                         rationalisation, including the
                                    transfer of homes to those
• Raising the quality of            better placed to manage them;
social housing: We are already
working to ensure that housing
associations fully embrace Best
Value. Residents must have the
opportunity to contribute and
community views must be
listened to, and acted on. New
 4                                              At a glance guide: 1

• A co-ordinated approach:          Raising the quality of social
The ideas in the housing Green      housing
Paper and the SNR will require
organisations of all kinds to       A growing and diversifying
better join up the ways they        sector
work — we need a more co-           The Green Paper proposes that
ordinated approach between          stock should be owned by a
central government and              wider range of organisations,
regional and local organisations,   separating the local authority
and between the providers and       strategic role from housing
consumers of services. This joint   management. It also heralds a
summary is one of the ways in       significant enlargement of the
which we are presenting our         transfer programme, to around
work in a more joined-up way.       200,000 homes a year. Within
                                    three years, we may be
We are publishing detailed          responsible for regulating two
responses to both documents.        million homes.
A summary of the main points
follows.                            We agree with the Green Paper
                                    proposals for a more diverse
                                    range of providers and our
                                    policy on options for
                                    community housing, due to be
                                    published in September,
                                    advocates more involvement for
                                    residents and those from black
                                    and minority ethnic (BME)

                                    We must also ensure that stock
                                    transfers are a positive move for
                                    the tenants involved. This
                                    presents a huge challenge to us
                                    in terms of the registration and
Involve – Revitalise – Improve                                   5

on-going regulation of the new     Improving housing
housing associations. We will      association performance and
be responsible for regulating an   delivering Best Value
increasingly diverse range of
activities as housing              Involving tenants in raising
associations secure and expand     standards
their businesses.                  The Green Paper and the SNR
                                   place great emphasis on the
What we are doing                  role of tenant involvement and
Recognising that our regulation    empowerment in raising the
system must change to meet         standard of association
these new challenges, we have      performance and sustainable
launched a ‘regulation             communities. The SNR also
revolution’ to prepare for the     highlights the importance of
future, through:                   the quality of core services, and
• using a risk-based approach      proposes an increase in on-the-
to regulation;                     spot local service provision, plus
• establishing larger teams of     new performance targets.
regulators, with improved
specialist skills;                 We warmly welcome these
• introducing a new inspection     proposals and will be launching
service; and                       a number of initiatives to
• working with housing             increase tenant influence. These
associations to encourage self-    will build on the findings of our
improvement and compliance.        MORI survey of 10,000 housing
                                   association tenants that will be
                                   published in September.

                                   What we are doing
                                   We are:
                                   • finalising our policy on
                                   options for community housing,
                                   which will enable tenants to
                                   choose how far they wish to be
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involved in management or          We will continue to develop our
ownership;                         new and more flexible approach
• introducing new, streamlined     to investment, making sure
performance indicators             investment decisions are tailored
focusing on key areas and          to local and regional needs and
enabling easy comparison with      make a positive contribution to
local authorities;                 neighbourhood renewal.
• developing our Best Value
regime for housing associations,   What we are doing
giving residents a greater         We are:
influence over services;           • making sure that our
• reviewing our Performance        investment in social housing is
Standards to focus on key          better targeted through more
outcomes for residents; and        strategic working with local
• establishing a new inspection    authorities and developing a
service, focusing on ‘reality      greater understanding of how
checking’ – assessments of         to meet the needs of regional,
association performance based      as well as local housing
on residents’ experience – and     markets;
publicising the results widely.    • developing an initiative to
                                   provide affordable housing
                                   options for key workers on
Investing in homes,                lower incomes; and
extending housing options          • ensuring that we achieve a
                                   balance in communities and in
Flexible, targeted funding         the tenure mix within
The Green Paper proposes           neighbourhoods.
measures to improve the
delivery of new, affordable
housing, and welcomes the
extension of our more flexible
investment strategy which
targets funding directly at the
areas that need it most.
Involve – Revitalise – Improve                                    7

Fairer rents, more affordable        associations operating in low
homes                                demand areas where successful
                                     strategies for neighbourhood
Restructuring rents                  renewal, as set out in the SNR,
A main plank of the Green            could be affected. Changes to
Paper is to restructure rents,       the rent regime will, in addition,
making them fairer, more             affect future Corporation
coherent and comparable with         investment and the amount of
local authority rents. The           social housing that can be
Government also proposes to          delivered through the Approved
limit annual increases to RPI-flat   Development Programme
by 2002.                             (ADP).

We welcome the moves                 What we are doing
towards new rent structures          We will:
that are more coherent, fairer       • consider in detail, working
and more understandable to           closely with the DETR and
tenants, and the focus on            housing associations, the effects
ensuring that rents are              of the rent models on housing
affordable to those on low           associations and the delivery of
incomes. We are pleased that         social housing; and
the DETR is undertaking              • work with housing
thorough research into the           associations to encourage
effect on housing associations       efficiency savings in housing
of re-structuring and of limiting    management and in
annual rent rises to Retail Price    development – for example,
Index (RPI) inflation. The results   through new construction
of this will need to be carefully    methods.
considered in determining the
final policy. At this point, we
have concerns that the
proposals could have adverse
consequences for smaller
housing associations, or those
 8                                              At a glance guide: 1

Promoting a community               to build up the skills of tenants
revival                             and residents. It provides an
                                    integrated approach to
Boosting local economies            achieving the wide-ranging
The SNR sees the revival of local   objectives set out in the SNR.
economies – through improving       Our new Community, Training
skills, attracting new              and Enabling grants will build
employment opportunities and        on this approach to improve
promoting local business – as       tenants’ capacity to take a
essential to neighbourhood          greater role in the management
renewal.                            of their homes;
                                    • encouraging and funding
We welcome the SNR’s                housing associations to involve
emphasis on the importance of       residents in information
reviving local economies.           communications technology
Research carried out for us by      (ICT), to build up their
the University of Sheffield,        employment skills;
Changing demand, changing           • promoting RSL involvement
neighbourhoods, highlighted         in the New Deal for
the critical ‘jobs plus homes’      Employment. Some housing
renewal equation and the role       associations are also developing
housing associations can play in    resident service organisations
developing training and             and local labour schemes; and
employment opportunities.           • working with Regional
With our support, many              Development Agencies to
housing associations have been      revitalise communities by linking
active in this area.                economic and housing
What we are doing
We are:                             Reviving communities
• developing our approach to        The SNR sets out a series of
empowering tenants. Making          measures to help residents
consumers count, our tenant         tackle the problems which
participation policy, has started   threaten to undermine local
Involve – Revitalise – Improve                                 9

communities – including           Giving tenants greater
dealing with anti-social          choice
behaviour, the development of     The Green Paper and the SNR
neighbourhood warden              propose reform of the social
schemes and reducing              housing lettings system to give
neighbourhood abandonment.        tenants greater choice in where
                                  they live, and to contribute to
The SNR sets out criteria that    the creation of more mixed and
could be used to assess the       balanced communities.
sustainability of communities.
These include the importance of   We welcome these proposals
having a broad social mix;        which could transform the
involving residents in running    image of social housing. We are
their neighbourhoods; and         currently funding research into
having an on-the-spot presence    the practical operation of
to tackle problems quickly and    choice-based lettings systems.
deter crime.                      However, any new system must
                                  be tailored to reflect local
With Liverpool John Moores        housing markets – for example,
University, we have developed a   in low demand areas, it could
toolkit of sustainability         lead to more voids (empty
indicators. This sets out nine    homes), and even to an
key factors and a series of       acceleration in neighbourhood
indicators which make an          abandonment, unless steps are
important contribution to         taken to manage the process.
creating and maintaining          Applicants must also be able to
sustainable communities. The      make informed choices and
SNR could make use of the         effective advice services will be
outcomes of this work to          needed.
further develop its own
sustainability checklist.
10                                              At a glance guide: 1

Tackling anti-social                employment opportunities. We
behaviour                           stand ready to work with the
The SNR emphasises early            Home Office and the DETR to
intervention to reduce anti-        support future developments in
social behaviour.                   this area and to encourage
                                    housing associations to respond
We agree with the SNR’s             to the publication of the recent
emphasis on the priorities of       bidding guidance on getting
prevention, putting someone in      pump-priming money for local
charge of tackling anti-social      schemes.
behaviour and promoting
practical advice about what         Reducing neighbourhood
works. This approach is             abandonment
reflected in our own investment     The SNR emphasises the
and regulatory frameworks.          importance of tackling the
Many housing associations have      problems of neighbourhood
been active in dealing with the     abandonment, stressing that
problems of anti-social             this is much more than a
behaviour and we have               housing problem.
promoted a wide range of good
practice.                           In recent years, debate and
                                    understanding about the causes
In particular, the SNR advocates    of neighbourhood
the role of neighbourhood           abandonment have increased
wardens as a way of tackling        dramatically. A wide range of
anti-social behaviour. Several      research, some of it funded by
housing associations are taking     us, has set out ways of
an active role in developing such   understanding the causes, and
schemes. This demonstrates how      has suggested solutions to
associations can develop            these complex problems. Low
initiatives that not only provide   demand is no longer seen just
neighbourhood warden                as a social housing problem but
services, but also involve local    one that affects all tenures. The
residents and contribute to local   problem is also recognised as
Involve – Revitalise – Improve                                    11

going wider than just the north      Further reading
of England.
                                     The Housing Corporation’s
Many housing associations own        responses to the Green Paper
stock in deprived areas. We          and the National Strategy for
strongly support their               Neighbourhood Renewal are
involvement in programmes for        both available free from the
the regenerating and renewing        publications unit on
of such areas. This not only         020-7393 2228 or can be
contributes to achieving more        downloaded from our website
sustainable communities:   
successful regeneration
programmes also help to              A full list of our publications
underpin demand for housing          can also be obtained from the
in areas where unpopular             publications unit or via our
housing is becoming a serious        website.
problem. We have taken several
steps to respond to the
challenge of unpopular housing
and low demand, including
contributing to the
development of new tools and
delivery mechanisms.

If associations are to play a full
part in neighbourhood renewal,
we will need to examine
patterns of stock ownership
and be clear about where
resources are going to come
from to pay for non-housing
initiatives. These can contribute
greatly to the success of
renewal strategies.
The Housing Corporation
149 Tottenham Court Road
London W1P 0BN

Telephone 020 7393 2000

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