On 10 May, Prince Charles delivered the Queen’s speech in the state opening of Parliament. The speech announced a total of 38 new Bills that will be introduced over the next year, with some important new announcements for social housing. Below, we have summarised information on the new Bills which will impact housing associations and the social housing sector.
The government announced its intention to bring forward the much anticipated Social Housing Regulation Bill this parliamentary session. The Bill will increase tenants’ rights to better homes and enhance their ability to hold their landlords to account. It will enhance the powers of the Regulator of Social Housing to inspect properties and act as the ultimate watchdog on standards.
We fully support the government’s aim to strengthen tenants’ rights through the Social Housing Regulation Bill. In our response, we were clear that housing associations stand ready to work with their residents and the government to ensure every home delivers on the high standards they expect. We anticipate this Bill will be brought forward as soon as parliamentary time allows. Further consultation on the detail of the changes to regulation will follow the Bill in due course and we will share more about the likely timetable as soon as we can.
Levelling up was mentioned in the first few sentences of the speech, to “drive local growth, empower local leaders to regenerate their areas and ensure everyone can share in the United Kingdom’s success.”
One of the main elements of this Bill is the Infrastructure Levy, which will create a locally set, non-negotiable levy to replace Section 106 developer contributions. The Levy aims to capture more of the financial value created by development to deliver the infrastructure communities need, such as affordable housing, schools, GPs and new roads.
With 4.2 million people in need of social housing, we’ve been clear with the government in our recent conversations that our priority is to ensure any changes to the planning system deliver the scale and quality of social housing we need. We expect further detail on the Infrastructure Levy in due course and we will be consulting members to take forward further conversations with the government.
The Bill will also simplify and standardise the process for local plans, so that they are produced more quickly and are easier for communities to influence. We support the government’s aim to address the huge disparities in the economies of towns and cities across the country through levelling up, and we welcome the decision to give local communities more powers over regeneration.
The government will introduce a Renters Reform Bill with a focus on abolishing ‘no fault’ section 21 evictions and strengthen landlords’ rights of possession. We know that ending section 21 will impact on some housing associations, particularly those who deliver supported housing, and we will continue to make the case for a solution that works in these settings.
Instead of a standalone Bill, the government has published a section in its background briefing entitled “Housing Reform” which focuses on its intentions to reform leasehold and level up homeownership. The government says it has set out its missions for renters to have a secure path to ownership and reduce the number of non-decent rented homes.
This Bill aims to ensure a safe and secure energy supply, helping to protect consumers against global price fluctuations and increase UK energy security by supporting a low-carbon energy system and reducing our dependence on gas over the long term. Housing associations share the government's net zero ambition and will do everything in their power to support the transition to cheaper, cleaner and more secure energy. It will seek to enable the extension of the price cap beyond 2023 to prevent suppliers from overcharging consumers. This is welcome news for protecting tenants who are on the sharp edge of the energy crisis and rising cost of living.
Ofgem will be appointed as the new regulator for heat networks to ensure consumers get a fair price and reliable supply of heat. The Bill will also lay out support for industry to step up investment in electric heat pumps to support innovation and help lower the costs of heat pumps over time.
The government announced that it will finalise the creation of a UK Infrastructure Bank by establishing it in law with clear objectives to support regional and local economic growth and deliver net zero, and ensuring it has the full range of spending and lending powers. We recently met with officials at the bank to explore how they could work more closely with housing associations, particularly on decarbonisation.
We are pleased to see the government commit to much needed changes through the Social Housing Regulation Bill, and a commitment to the levelling up agenda. We look forward to working closely with the government and senior stakeholders as these Bills progress through parliament, and we will ensure that our members’ views are represented throughout.