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Altair – The burden of bare floors

Anne-Marie Bancroft welcomes the expectation in the new WHQS that social landlords will provide floor coverings and hopes that Scotland and England will soon follow Wales.

In late 2023, the revised Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) was confirmed, establishing higher expectations for the quality of social housing across Wales.

Housing associations and local authorities with social rented homes are urged to comply with the housing quality standard while maintaining the requirements that ensures tenants live in better quality homes. The revisions to the standard align with evolving lifestyles, work patterns, and residents’ and feel about their homes. The new standard will set the requirement to elevate the quality of residential living and introduce fresh benchmarks to address decarbonisation and enhance water efficiency. You will all have read in great detail in the last edition of WHQ about the opportunities and implications of working towards WHQS 2023.

We were particularly  delighted to see that the WHQS also sets an expectation that social landlords provide floor coverings for their tenants at point of let. This regulatory change was influenced by the Tai Pawb and TPAS Cymru Floored report, which also inspired our current research project with the Longleigh Foundation.

Inspiring change

The lack of provision of floor coverings has been something that the Longleigh Foundation has identified through its grant-making function. Grant makers provide floor coverings to those in the most need, but this support is a far cry from the prevailing need across the social housing sector, with 760,000 tenants currently living without floor coverings in the UK.

Knowing this, Longleigh Foundation wanted to make an impactful change in this area and for this reason, commissioned Altair to carry out a research project. The research focuses on the provision of floor coverings in social housing in England, Scotland, and Wales. The research builds on the work of Tai Pawb and TPAS Cymru in the Floored report and the findings of JRF in its House to Home report, with a view to effecting regulatory change for England, Scotland, and Wales.

We’ve found a widespread lack of floor coverings across the social housing sector, with around 90 per cent of general needs tenancies being let without them. The absence of floor coverings has been found to impact tenants both financially and socially. This needs to change.

Making lives better

WHQS 2023 sets out a new and challenging set of standards for social landlords to meet but has left many of them asking about funding. Through our continued research we find that landlords are clear on the moral case for the provision of floor coverings, with most saying they know it’s the right thing to do for their tenants. But we can also determine that the financial cost is a significant barrier for landlords.

Continually as a social housing sector, we see organisational vision statements and values, in the main along the lines of ‘making lives better’ for social housing tenants, but in practice, for 90 per cent of social homes, we see that floor coverings aren’t provided at point of let.  And when floor coverings are provided, this is for the purpose of the landlord and not for the needs of their tenants.

Aileen Edmunds, CEO at the Longleigh Foundation, says: ‘Ultimately, I want it to inspire a change in standards. I want social housing tenants to be able to walk into their new homes on appropriate coverings rather than bare floors. In the meantime, I will continue to challenge landlords on their social purpose and question whether they are doing all they can to provide a home that both tenants and staff can be proud of.’

Pushing for continual improvement

It is great to see Welsh Government leading the way in mandating the provision of floor coverings for new tenants and we strongly advocate for the Scottish Housing Quality Standard to follow suit. Our research provides policymakers with a comprehensive understanding of the costs and benefits associated with floor coverings provision by social landlords which we hope will influence the anticipated review of the Decent Homes Standard in England by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and that England will soon follow Wales.

To read our three published learning reports on behalf of the Longleigh Foundation, visit the Altair news and insights page by scanning the QR code.

Anne-Marie Bancroft is head of consumer regulation at Altair


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