Independent inquiry to tackle ‘unacceptable’ housing conditions

ITV News have reported that the National Housing Federation (NHF) will be setting up an independent panel to make ‘urgent recommendations’ to tackle poor quality housing. The NHF represents more than 800 social housing providers in England and comes after the federation issued an apology and admitted the sector had let tenants down following an ITV news investigation. Its members provide homes for around six million people and said that ITV news investigation “revealed stories that are just completely unacceptable, and I want to say sorry to those residents. They deserve better,” the federation’s chief executive Kate Henderson said at the time.

Kate then admitted a culture change was need in social housing along with “great accountability, trust and responsiveness between the social landlord and residents”. Along with the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), the NHF reiterated that “the unacceptable conditions” faced by some social housing tenants which was exposed by ITV News. In their joint press release, they said they were “committed to taking swift and decisive action to fix homes with major quality issues and to start to tackle the root causes of these problems”.

They have pledged to bring together a group of people with ‘expertise and lived experience in social housing to guide the sector on this vital journey”. The panel which will be led by Helen Baker, the chair of the national housing charity, Shelter, will be meeting with residents, community leaders and frontline staff over the summer to understand the problems facing tenants and how to improve living standards in these homes.

“ATTMA is pleased that this issue is being investigated by the National Housing Federation. It’s long been known that the quality of housing can vary wildly, particularly in social housing settings. Mould growth is often blamed on the occupants not appropriately ventilating properties but we know that a significant number of other reasons exists – inadequate or missing ventilation, choosing between having a window open at night to be a comfortable temperature or not sleeping, and an alarming number of retrofits that do not consider the pillar of building performance – air tightness, insulation and ventilation. The construction industry, and those dishing out the money, need to do better in these situations and understand that you cannot amend a building without considering all of the factors”.

Barry Cope, Managing Director of BCTA

NHF chief executive Ms Henderson said “Everyone should expect a safe, secure, good quality and affordable home”. “Housing associations play a vital role in every community in the country providing essential social housing. “We know most people have a good experience in their housing association home, but we have clearly seen that this has not been the case for every housing association resident and that is simply not acceptable,” Ms Henderson acknowledged. “The sector wants to learn how these problems have happened and what action they can take to do better.”

She added she looked forward to reading the panel’s recommendations and working to take the action needed “to make sure every housing association resident can trust that they will live in a secure, good-quality home”.

Gavin Smart, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, welcomed the insight the panel would bring to help social housing associations to “fix what is wrong and develop greater trust between landlords and tenants”. He added all social housing tenants “should be able to live in a good quality, well managed home and be treated with dignity and respect”. “Where this is not the case, we must put that right”

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