Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) (HOU 37)

  TPAS agrees that there needs to be a balance between providing homes for people in work and those not in work. However TPAS is concerned about the abrupt divide of key workers and homeless families. For those in work there will need to be low cost ownership, part ownership and social housing available. Not everyone will have the income to afford even low cost ownership and not everyone has the security of employment to want home ownership. Social housing will need to be available for these workers. TPAS is also concerned that the categorization of key worker will simply exclude those with low incomes, which are just as essential for local economies as "key" workers.

  Likewise those people not in work can't simply be summed up as homeless families in B&B. There are a wide range of people in terms of age, circumstances and potential employability. Such people are part of a balanced community and social housing remains their obvious housing tenure.

  Low Demand—Whilst it is very nice that funding is being pumped into areas of low demand what will be the right level of engagement with local residents and tenants to ensure their contribution is an integral part of the Pathfinder areas?

  Given the poor track record of top down initiatives involving local tenants and residents TPAS believes that the engagement of local people needs to be at the forefront of the Market Renewal Fund. The Government has rightly recognized that the failure to do so has been a fundamental cause of failing communities. However challenging the "top down, we know best" mentality has been far more difficult and TPAS's own work, on behalf of ODPM, showed little understanding or involvement of local tenants in current neighbourhood renewal initiatives.

  TPAS therefore proposes that the Government have an explicit commitment to engage local people in the pilots, that all pilots have a Steering Group with an elected component of local tenants and residents and that all pilots must consult on their plans at an early stage. This consultation must be benchmarked and endorsed by an independent body as a condition of ODPM funding being available to the pilots.

Housing Conditions (Decent Homes Standard)—Is the extra funding for Arms Length Companies/PFI going to deliver decent homes alongside stock transfer?

  TPAS has been concerned that the previous level of funding would not be enough to meet the Decent Homes Standard. The increased funding is welcomed and will go part of the way to meet the shortfall. TPAS has three remaining concerns:

    —  Local Authority tenants simply don't understand why the funding available through stock transfer can't be available through their Local Authority without the need to transfer and that for some Local Authority no option—even stock transfer—adds up to the funding needed to meet the Decent Homes Standard.

    —  That for some Local Authorities the sums from any option just don't meet what they require to meet the Decent Homes Standard. This is especially true for larger northern Metropolitan councils.

    —  That the process that "delivers" any of these options needs to be more robust—with compulsory ballots of tenants on ALMOs and PFI proposals—and far greater emphasis on ensuring tenants get impartial and robust advice on the stock transfer proposals in front of them.

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