Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government written question – answered on 6th September 2021.

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Photo of Colleen Fletcher Colleen Fletcher Opposition Whip (Commons)

To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what plans his Department has to take steps to reduce health inequalities through housing in (a) Coventry North East constituency, (b) Coventry, (c) the West Midlands and (d) England.

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

We recognise the increased importance of good quality, safe and decent homes. By law, all landlords must ensure properties are fit for people to live in. All registered providers of social housing (which includes homes owned by local authority landlords) must meet standards set by the Regulator of Social Housing. This includes complying with the Government's Decent Homes Standard, which ensures homes are safe and decent. Social landlords are responsible for addressing any breaches of statutory requirements in the homes they provide.

The Housing Act 2004 and the Housing and Planning Act 2016 gave local authorities powers to regulate and enforce standards in the private rented sector. Where local authorities find seriously hazardous conditions, they have a legal duty to take enforcement action. Local authorities also have the power to serve legal notices requiring landlords to carry out remedial works. If landlords don't comply, or if local authorities believe the risk is high enough, local authorities can carry out remedial works themselves and recover the costs. These powers apply to Coventry North East constituency, Coventry, the West Midlands, and England more broadly. We have made a great deal of progress in recent years to help improve housing standards across the country:

  • We have given local authorities strong powers to deal with dangerously damp conditions in the private rented sector.
  • We have introduced the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2019 - empowering social and private tenants to take their landlords to court and are committed to improving the energy performance of all properties - because warm homes mean a reduction in damp.
  • Working with DHSC, we have increased funding for the Disabled Facilities Grant to £573 million next year which will assist more home adaptations.
  • We have provided £5.4 million to improve quality of support and accommodation in supported housing through year-long pilots in five local authorities. Birmingham City Council has received £1.84 million of funding through the pilots.

Alongside this, there are also areas where we intend to go further:

  • We have announced a comprehensive review of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System to ensure it properly reflects the physical and psychological harm caused by poor standards.
  • The Social Housing White Paper said that homes should be safe and decent and committed to reviewing the Decent Homes Standard which will consider whether the current Standard sets the right expectation on how warm and safe homes should be.
  • We recently consulted on options to raise accessible housing standards, including options to review and potentially tighten the regulatory framework to deliver accessible new homes. We will set our plans by the end of the year.
  • We recently consulted, through the Planning for the Future White Paper, on proposals to enable more and better green space in development, including introducing a fast-track for beauty and design codes created by local communities.

MHCLG has taken the lead on many aspects of this work. However, we also recognise that the responsibility for ensuring homes and buildings are safe and decent is a shared one - lying with product designers, developers, building owners and managers and local authorities as well as central Government and devolved administrations.

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