A weekly round-up of the most important headlines for housing professionals
This week was one of repeat occurrences for the housing sector. It began in tragedy.
In the small hours of Sunday morning, two houses near Morecambe were destroyed in a huge explosion, with a third badly damaged. Little George Hinds, aged just two, was killed and four adults were hospitalised. Details are yet to emerge as an investigation is underway, but Lancaster City Council has confirmed that it owns one of the homes involved.
The story is made all the more upsetting by the fact that this was the second suspected gas explosion affecting a council house this month – with a recent blast in Ashford leaving seven people injured.
Croydon Council was again in the spotlight, with the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) declaring it non-compliant after some of the authority’s homes were found to be “uninhabitable and unsafe”.
The regulatory action followed an ITV News investigation into shocking conditions at a tower block in the borough – not the ideal route for poor social housing services to be identified. This was perhaps partly behind the RSH’s decision to find Croydon Council only the second ever provider to breach its Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard.
Meanwhile, the council confirmed it has received a “best and final offer” for its beleaguered housing company, Brick by Brick.
And ITV News was back at it again, with giant housing association L&Q forced to apologise after a report on one of its tenants with a neuromuscular condition who has been complaining of damp and mould in his flat since 2019.
There was pain for another major London-based housing association as well. Unaudited accounts for Notting Hill Genesis revealed that it has spent an eye-watering £22m buying back flats on a development it was forced to evacuate last year because of safety concerns.
In a story that may worry housing association treasurers, Inside Housing revealed that experts expect defined benefit pension costs to surge by up to 30% in the coming years amid falling corporate bond yields and rising inflation.
Turning to the wider housing policy environment, the looming end to the moratorium on bailiff-enforced evictions on 31 May prompted warnings from local government. The District Councils’ Network said that nine in 10 local authorities expect a surge in homelessness once all protection measures are withdrawn in the autumn, while London Councils expressed fears of a summer spike in people losing their homes.
Elsewhere, Inside Housing learned that councils are struggling to manage the Green Homes Grant programme, blaming tight deadlines. Again, we have somewhat been here before: it comes months after the government had to scrap the chaotic Green Homes Grant voucher scheme for the wider public.
In Scotland, the sector has a new face to get familiar with. As part of a cabinet reshuffle following national elections two weeks ago, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has appointed a new social justice, housing and local government secretary in the form of Shona Robison.
Finally, there was another touch of déjà vu this morning to round off the week, as PA Housing and Accent Group announced that they have abandoned discussions for a merger that would have created a 43,000-home landlord.
Some readers may remember that last month Sanctuary and Southern Housing Group also declared the end of short-lived plans to create the country’s largest housing association.
Nathaniel Barker, deputy news editor
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