25 May 2023

NHF and CIH publish action plan to tackle issues of poor quality in social housing

The National Housing Federation (NHF) and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) today published an action plan that sets out how they will work alongside housing associations to improve the quality of their homes and services across the country.

It is a response to the Better Social Housing Review (BSHR), an independent review into issues of poor quality in social housing published in December 2022. The review, chaired by Helen Baker, was commissioned by the NHF and CIH following challenging media reports of cases of poor-quality housing. It sets out seven recommendations for social housing landlords.

Embedded at the heart of the NHF and CIH action plan are proactive steps to help ensure equitable access to good quality housing association homes and services for all people. The actions seek to tackle the structural inequalities in society which are currently leaving Black and Asian households around three times more likely than their white British counterparts to live in damp homes of all tenures.

The development of the action plan has been led by NHF and CIH members, in particular a Steering Group and a Working Group on Race and Inequalities made up of sector leaders. Many groups of housing associations have endorsed the action plan, including G15, Homes for the North and BME National.

Whilst the Better Social Housing Review originally made recommendations to housing associations, local authority landlords are equally committed to delivering good quality homes and services. The NHF and CIH can announce today that the Local Government Association (LGA), the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH) and the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) are participating in the action plan and wherever possible will ensure it is relevant to all social landlords.

A key area of work announced in the action plan builds on the BSHR panel’s recommendation of an audit of all social homes. Through a programme of work called ‘Knowing our Homes’, the NHF and CIH aim to develop a new shared, consistent approach to assessing homes that all social landlords can adopt. This will help to drive long term, systemic improvements to how social landlords understand their homes, including linking data about the condition of homes to the demographics of people in them. The NHF and CIH will work closely with the government and the regulator on this.

Other actions in the plan include both the NHF and CIH supporting housing associations to review their maintenance and repairs processes, promoting qualifications, training and professional standards for housing officers, and supporting housing associations to measure their progress against the plan, making a particular effort to engage with and listen to both ethnically diverse and disabled residents and staff.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said:

“This robust and ambitious plan shows the sector’s commitment to making improvements where they are needed. Social housing leaders are passionate about driving forward this collaborative effort to ensure that all of our homes and services meet the high standards we set for ourselves, and this plan builds on the great work housing associations are already doing to improve their homes and services.

“But housing associations do not operate in a vacuum. The BSHR panel itself found that housing associations are under huge pressures, having seen funding for new affordable housing cut by 63% in 2010, during which time they have been investing more in new building safety and decarbonisation requirements.

“We need support and action from government. England has some of the oldest and worst quality homes in Europe and these issues cannot be permanently fixed without funding for regeneration. We need the government to invest in a long-term strategy for social housing which encompasses both the regeneration of existing homes and communities, as well as building urgently needed new social homes.”

Gavin Smart, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said:

“We’re pleased to be able to work with our members and with the sector to publish this action plan. It commits housing professionals to a series of important steps which will address the independent panel review’s findings and recommendations and help to ensure that all tenants of social housing live in good quality, well-managed homes and are treated with dignity and respect.”

Helen Baker, Chair of Shelter and Chair of the BSHR panel, said:

"This is an ambitious action plan showing that housing associations recognise the issues and will work with tenants to share learning and drive positive change. It is a plan where equity properly sits at the heart of quality. Our housing system is under huge pressure and we need to see the government also now taking action, alongside social housing providers and tenants, to invest in our country’s homes."

Ian McDermott, Chief Executive of Peabody and Charlie Norman, Chief Executive of Mosscare St Vincent’s, Co-Chairs of the Steering Group on Quality and Trust said:

“This plan is the result of a truly collaborative effort in our drive towards improvement which we all recognise needs to be made. It’s been clear throughout this process how committed housing associations are to making this plan a reality, which I know represents the sector taking ownership of its role in addressing these challenges.

“But while housing associations of course have a huge responsibility to our residents and a big role to play in delivering on the recommendations we need to see a coherent, long-term plan from the government on housing and regeneration. The sector is ready to work in partnership with them.”

Tracey Gore, Chair of the Working Group on Race and Structural Inequalities in the BSHR and Director of Steve Biko Housing Association, said:

“Addressing racial inequality throughout this action plan has been the focus of the Race and Inequalities Group, which I chair. We have worked hard to embed anti-racism and the need to tackle inequality within the actions of each recommendation and feel strongly that these actions can lead to lasting change and support our sector to be one which actively fights racism, ensuring that residents have equal access to quality homes and services no matter their ethnicity, religion, or race.”

Cym D’Souza, Chair of BME National and Chief Executive of Arawak Housing association, said:

“This action plan represents a crucial moment for our sector. I'm confident that as this plan is taken forward by the NHF and CIH, housing associations will build on the EDI work many are already doing and embrace the need to become truly anti-racist, ensuring that people of all races and ethnicities have equitable opportunities to live in good quality social housing.”

Written by Rachael Williamson

Rachael Williamson is the head of policy and external affairs. Visit LinkedIn to find out more about Rachael