03 Jan 2023

Looking back on 2022 and ahead to 2023

2022 was quite a year. Alongside the tragic outbreak of war in Ukraine which triggered a new wave of refugees, we saw a fast-growing cost of living - and in turn housing - crisis, a heat wave followed by record levels of fuel poverty, and unprecedented political upheaval (three Prime Ministers and five housing ministers). As we enter 2023, here are my top ten take aways*:

  1. Cost of living: Inflation in 2022 hit record levels and will continue to bite in 2023. Whilst it appears to have passed its peak, it has placed considerable strain on business plans and exacerbated recruitment, retention, and supply issues. We know low-income households are most affected by high food and energy prices – we've seen reports of cutting back on essential spending with the poorest households skipping meals or using food banks. At CIH we’ve seen some great examples of how social housing providers are supporting tenants, residents and their staff (see our cost of living briefings and webinars) but the challenges are considerable, particularly for the most disadvantaged groups. The latest package of measures from government in the Autumn Statement will go some way to help but, as we set out in our response, more support is needed to help those on the lowest incomes. We will be advocating for this in our response to the APPG on Poverty’s call for evidence on the adequacy of social security.
  2. Energy efficiency: Whether renting or owning, everyone is facing the challenge of escalating fuel bills, not helped by an inefficient housing stock. According to the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, of which CIH is a member, 6.9 million households will be in fuel poverty this winter, despite government support schemes. Housing providers have some control over action to tackle energy inefficiency in homes and should do all they can to help insulate residents. In the coming weeks we’ll hear the outcome of the latest round of SHDF wave 2 applications to help build momentum in the social housing sector but, as the Climate Change Committee has made clear, we need to continue to strive for much faster progress to decarbonise our housing stock. We met with Lord Callanan of BEIS to discuss this recently and look forward to exploring further at the Northern Housing Festival in February. 
  3. Housing affordability: The 2022 UK Housing Review highlights a clear rise in housing affordability pressures for most areas of the UK. Latest figures from the ONS show average UK house prices increased by 12.6 per cent over the year to October 2022, up from 9.9 per cent in September 2022. Whilst the market turmoil seen following the ‘mini-budget’ saw some downward pressure on sale prices, private rents are rising at their fastest rate in 16 years and, with housing benefit frozen, the housing affordability gap is growing, leaving many more unable to afford a secure home. (We discussed the housing market and the fall-out from the mini-budget in a recent CIH podcast.) It is more important than ever that government invests in new social housing development.
  4. Homelessness: Whilst getting better during lockdown thanks to measures such as ‘Everyone In’, homelessness is predicted to increase by a third by 2024. Over recent years the government has made considerable investment in homelessness services, but it is essential that they now step in to support people from becoming homeless in the first place. CIH welcomes the commitment to end ‘no fault’ evictions which are the leading cause of homelessness in the private rented sector but urges government to bring forward the long-awaited Renters Reform Bill to enact this. We will continue to call for the uprating of local housing allowance rates to reflect the true cost of renting and the removal of the shared accommodation rate which puts young people at greater risk of homelessness. There is much that the social housing sector can do to take proactive and supportive action to prevent homelessness, as demonstrated in the good practice guide we published last year and as championed by Homes for Cathy
  5. Housing supply: Once again politics has come into play and government appears to have pulled back from its target to build 300,000 homes each year, reinvigorating the NIMBY vs YIMBY debate. It’s clear that we must build more - and particularly more social - homes if we are to tackle the housing crisis. There are hundreds of thousands of people living in temporary accommodation (including 1 in 100 children), over a million people waiting for social homes and an untold number of low-income renters struggling in, for now at least, precarious private renting. At CIH we’ll continue to push for the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, currently being scrutinised by parliament, to prioritise affordable housing provision as part of any planning reform - everyone should have an affordable, decent and accessible place to call home.
  6. Housing quality: The work that campaigners and tenants have done to raise the profile of disrepair issues has shone a light on the work we need to do to bring some of our homes up to standard and to listen more effectively to tenants and residents. Sadly, the tragic death of Awaab Ishak in Rochdale brought this into sharp focus. The government’s review of the Decent Homes Standard coupled with the recent report from the Better Social Housing Review, commissioned by CIH and NHF, provide an opportunity and challenge for the housing sector to focus on the work needed to put things right. CIH’s work to support development of the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill, alongside Crisis, is also critical to this, as is ensuring new homes are built to quality standards.
  7. Professionalism: Much of the debate on housing quality points to the importance of professionalism. CIH’s professional standards framework, which underpins our code of ethics and of conduct, is a great way to ensure everyone is equipped to do the right thing. These professional standards can play an important part in the outcome of the government’s Professionalisation review and the forthcoming Social Housing Regulation Act.
  8. Tenant voice: The Social Housing Regulation Bill, once enacted, will give tenants a much greater voice and improve access to redress. The promised Renters Reform Bill will also introduce an important re-balancing of the relationship between landlords and tenants in the private rented sector. Tenant voice, engagement and co-design will be a central feature going forward as the Tenant Satisfaction Measures go live in April and we move to a proactive set of consumer standards. This presents an important milestone for the sector and at CIH we have a range of work planned to help gear up for the change. Part of this includes facing into work needed to address stigma in social housing.
  9. Financial backdrop: As we enter a new year, the sector faces considerable financial challenge. At CIH we’ve been clear that affordability for tenants and residents is of utmost importance, but rents also need to be balanced with the need for ongoing investment in housing if we are to address current and future need. On that basis we supported the government’s decision to cap social housing rents at seven per cent and welcomed the voluntary cap that many housing associations are putting in place for shared owners. We look forward to working with members as we respond to the planned call for evidence on possible rent convergence, and a consultation on the future rent settlement. It’s critical that we strike the right balance between certainty and flexibility.
  10. Challenges and opportunities: It’s clear that with the growing cost of living crisis and affordability stretched in every part of the country, building and maintaining affordable, energy efficient, and good quality housing is more important than ever – but we must not lose sight of putting tenants and residents at the centre of decision making. As we look to a general election on the horizon, my hope is that we can make 2023 the year that housing sits at the heart of the political agenda. If we want to really level up the country, we must start with home.

* NB it’s been a busy year so this is not an exhaustive list!

Written by Rachael Williamson

Rachael is head of policy and external affairs at CIH, leading our influencing and public affairs work in England.