The Queen’s Speech – what’s on the horizon for the social housing sector?

On Tuesday 10 May 2022 the Queen’s Speech set out the Government’s proposed legislative changes for the forthcoming year. As ever, the housing sector was not immune from strident change and proposed reform – from extending regulatory oversight for social housing providers, the abolition of section 21 through to leasehold reform – there is plenty to keep us busy over the next parliamentary session!

The briefing notes can be found here.

The speech set out two proposed Bills dealing with housing law and the social housing sector:

  1. The Social Housing Regulation Bill; and
  2. Renters Reform Bill.

Many of the proposed changes are not new and have been on the horizon for some time now. The speech makes clear that they are now Government priorities for the next parliamentary year.

The proposed changes are light on detail but are expected to include:

  1. New intervention and inspection powers for the Regulator of Social Housing – this will see a more proactive approach to regulation and particularly in relation to the standard of properties (the proposals include short notice (48 hours) regulatory inspections; powers to carry out emergency repairs and unlimited fines);
  2. Housing Associations to be brought into scope of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (or similar);
  3. Abolition of section 21 possession rights along with ‘new and stronger’ grounds for possession where there are repeated rent arrears and shorter notice periods for ASB possession claims;
  4. The expansion of the Decent Homes Standard to become legally enforceable for the private rented sector and a ‘property portal’ for private landlords with the introduction of a new Ombudsman.

The Government also used the Speech to re-iterate its stated commitment to introducing significant leasehold reform within this current Parliament. Following on from the recent enactment in February of the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022 which bans the charging of anything more than a nominal ground rent in new residential leases, the Speech indicates that we can expect to see further legislation aimed at:

  1. Banning new leasehold houses so that all new houses are freehold from the outset other than in exceptional circumstances;
  2. Making it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to extend their lease or buy their freehold;
  3. Making it simpler and quicker for leaseholders to take control of the management of their building;
  4. Better protecting and empowering leaseholders by giving them more information on what their costs cover, ensuring they are not subject to any unjustified legal costs and can claim their own legal costs from their landlord;
  5. Delivering a reformed commonhold system as an alternative to leasehold ownership.

As ever, the devil will be in the detail and we will now have to wait for the detailed proposals to be published by Government in the coming months. We will keep you updated as and when that happens – do watch out for our webinars and round table discussion events that we will host on them.

If you would like more information on this then please contact either Lee Russell or Mark Foxcroft in our Housing Management and Property Litigation team.

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