Regulation review announced as minister puts trust in housing professionals
Ministers have promised to “hand the levers of power” to housing professionals while warning that money will be tight in delivering priorities identified by the government and the sector.
Announcing a new review of regulation at the Chartered Institute of Housing's annual conference, housing minister Grant Shapps said he was keen to place his trust in people with much greater experience and knowledge but added that everyone must recognise constraints on government spending.
The review will study the role of the Tenant Services Authority and the Homes and Communities Agency, both created less than two years ago. But Mr Shapps seemed to pre-empt its results by criticising the TSA and indicating that the HCA must refocus on local operations.
Tenants' rights would be better protected by giving tenants' panels greater powers to intervene and pass complaints to the Housing Ombudsman, said the minister. Although welcoming the regulatory framework produced up by the TSA, he criticised the authority for money it had spent on lobbying the government and on marketing.
“I place a huge premium on tenant empowerment,” he told delegates in Harrogate on 24 June. ”I'm far from convinced that a large national quango is the best way of achieving it.”
The HCA, said the minister, should become smaller and more strategic. “It will be an enabling or investment body,” he said. “It will be the people that you call to get things done.”
Quizzed by delegates on plans to link housing benefit to the time that people spend claiming job seeker's allowance, Mr Shapps pointed out there would be no change for at least three years, by which time the economy would be growing. “I believe we should reward work, not worklessness, and put money towards people that genuinely work, or are carers,” he added.
Challenged over how the government will ensure that sufficient new homes are built, the minister said plans to offer extra council tax to authorities that support planning proposals would make development popular among local communities.
The moratorium on stock transfers to housing associations will remain in place while ministers review the housing finance system in local government, the conference was told. Mr Shapps also praised some arm's length management organisations for doing “a fine job”, but said he had no fixed view over how social housing should be provided.
Money that is saved by cutting quangos would help support programmes such as housing market renewal. “It's not going to fall off a cliff or stop,” he said, while promising to be upfront with housing groups about the general economic outlook. “The money has run out and everybody is going to have to take the pressure,” said Mr Shapps.