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Posted: 11/06/2021


Here we sum up some other important updates over the past three months:

Pensions contributions set to rise by a third

Experts have warned that pension contributions for organisations offering defined benefit pension schemes (including schemes such as the Social Housing Pension Scheme (SHPS)) to employees could rise by as much as a third in the coming years. This comes on top of predicted increases in FRS102 (Financial Reporting Standard) deficits this year of up to 50% while funding levels are predicted to fall by 5%.

This rise is a result of pressures on inflation as well as a fall in corporate bond yields. It had already been reported that the SHPS’s current deficit had grown to £1.5 billion and this hasn’t come down, and so contributions are likely to go up very soon.

The rise is likely to be felt across the sector. SHPS is the main pension scheme used, with more than 7,000 active defined benefit members. Organisations will have to make difficult decisions about how they might respond to these increases and a number of larger providers have already left the scheme, including Clarion, Radian (now Abri), Sanctuary and Bromford.

Read our previous detailed article here.

Last CORS Report

The Regulator of Social Housing (the Regulator) published its tenth and final Coronavirus Operational Response Survey (CORS) report in May, which set out a positive picture. It showed that organisations responded well to the unprecedented challenges faced as a result of the pandemic and lockdowns.

The CORS report detailed how challenges were felt most acutely during the first wave of the pandemic but that since then organisations “have largely continued to deliver essential services without further disruption during later lockdowns and CORS results have remained reasonably constant over the last six months”. Gas safety checks have also returned to pre-pandemic levels.

However, the Regulator has warned that the pandemic has had a fundamental impact on operations and these wider impacts will need to be addressed going forward.

Regulator of Social Housing Corporate Plan

The Regulator has published its Corporate Plan 2021-2024, which outlines how it will meet its purpose over this period.

The Regulator notes that it expects this to be a period of significant change as it looks to implement the proposals contained in the Social Housing White Paper as well as the response to the Grenfell Tower Tragedy Public Inquiry.

The plan reiterates the Regulator’s statutory objectives in relation to economic regulation and consumer regulation, as well as a new set of strategic objectives for the next three years including:

  • delivering effective regulation which helps to maintain stakeholder confidence;
  • supporting the sector’s capacity to deliver safe, sustainable and affordable homes;
  • implementing reforms outlined in the Social Housing White Paper;
  • promoting a shared understanding of changes in the social housing sector and horizon scanning to foresee emerging risks; and
  • continuing to develop the Regulator, its framework and its approach in line with the sector’s risk profile and forthcoming changes in the Regulator’s objectives and remit.

These objectives will be supported by the Regulator’s existing priorities, including:

  • ensuring it has appropriate understanding of sector-level risks;
  • delivering proportionate, assurance-based co-regulation focused on risk;
  • ensuring it is forward thinking and responsive to changes in the external operating environment; and
  • ensuring it is an efficient and effective organisation.

The Regulator has also included a list of values that underpin everything it does, which include a focus on embracing diversity and seeking to be an inclusive and supportive organisation. It hopes to build on the work it has already undertaken, including setting up staff networks, and will finalise its first diversity and inclusion strategy.

When discussing the sector’s operating environment, the Regulator points to the continuing uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the further impact it is likely to have, including in relation to the financial performance of some organisations, with many scaling back development plans. However, it also points to the way the sector has positively adapted to challenges of the past year and improvements in communicating with tenants. The Regulator also recognised the growth of for-profit providers.

The plan also mentions several developing policy areas that will shape the Regulator’s work over the next few years, including:

  • the Social Housing White Paper, including the strengthening of consumer regulation and the upcoming review of the Decent Homes Standard;
  • the new Affordable Housing Programme 2021- 2026;
  • reduction of homelessness;
  • the Energy White Paper;
  • the ongoing Grenfell Tower Tragedy Public Inquiry;
  • ongoing investment needs in existing stock (including because of decarbonisation, the review of the Decent Homes Standard and building safety changes); and
  • the National Strategy for Disabled People.

You can read the full Corporate Plan here.

The Regulator announces tenant satisfaction measures sounding board

The Regulator has also announced the creation of a sounding board to develop detailed proposals about tenant satisfaction measures before it embarks on its consultation process on the same later on this year.

The tenant satisfaction measures were proposed by the Social Housing White Paper and the aim is for these to help stakeholders hold housing providers to account.

Members of the tenant satisfaction sounding board include representatives from the following organisations:

  • ARCH
  • Chartered Institute of Housing
  • Councils with ALMOs
  • G15
  • G320
  • Housing Ombudsman Service
  • PlaceShapers
  • Local Government Association
  • National Federation of ALMOs
  • National Housing Federation
  • Northern Housing Consortium
  • TAROE
  • Tpas

For further details of the announcement please click here.

Read more of our latest articles:

Look out for our upcoming webinars and podcasts with further details to be announced soon, including:

  • Housing - cybercrime and data protection risks;
  • Lessons learned from recent regulatory judgements with Mick Warner (former Director of special projects at the Regulator of Social Housing); and
  • Hearing the resident voice in the board room.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP