Friday, 27 March 2015

Consultation launched on powers to force councils to co-operate with tenants

New laws could see homes transferred to residents

Councils could be forced to help tenants’ groups form housing associations to take over the ownership and management of their estates, under government plans.

In a move likely to initiate a new wave of stock transfers, ministers will next month launch a consultation on regulations that require authorities to co-operate with tenants seeking ownership of their estates.

Legal powers compelling authorities to take such requests seriously were created by the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 but were never introduced. The consultation was revealed in a letter to Inside Housing alongside papers released under the Freedom of Information Act.

‘This [the consultation] will seek views on draft regulations and associated statutory guidance that would provide powers to local authority tenants and require their landlord to co-operate with them,’ the letter stated.

The FOI papers revealed the frustration suffered by tenant organisations wanting to assume ownership of their homes.

A bid by Friday Hill Tenant Management Organisation, in Chingford, London, to take over 1,000 homes was halted by Waltham Forest Council over uncertainties about council house funding, a letter to the CLG last July reveals. In another dated August last year, lawyers acting for West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates Tenants’ and Residents’ Association described Hammersmith & Fulham Council as ‘unwilling to devolve ownership to local people’. The west London authority said it was looking at redeveloping the estates.

Tony Bird, an independent housing consultant, said: ‘This is a great idea but tenant-led stock transfers are only likely to work where gap funding is provided.’

Robin Tebbutt, associate at consultancy Housing Quality Network, said: ‘The financial implications of partial stock transfers are complex and viability issues must be taken into account.’

The new regulations would effectively reinstate the tenants’ choice policy, which gave tenants the right to transfer their homes to a landlord other than the local council. The policy was abolished in 1996.

What the regulations will force councils to do

  • Provide help or financial support
  • Arrange a feasibility study to examine tenants’ proposals
  • Provide information to tenants
  • Co-operate with tenants
  • Arrange ballots
  • Agree to dispose of properties

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