Welcome and introductions
Kelda welcomed everyone to the meeting.
In attendance: Kelda McMichael (SHR), Stephen Lalley (SHR), Leonora Montgomery, John McKenzie, Margaret Dymond, Bruce Cuthbertson, Shona Gorman, John Duffy, Liz Richardson, Michael Cameron (SHR; item 1 only), George Walker (SHR board; item 1 only)
Observing: Suchitra Dutt (SHR)
Declaration of interests & minute of last meeting
Bruce declared that he is a TIS board member. The minute of the last meeting was accepted.
1. Q&A with Michael Cameron and George Walker
The group welcomed Michael Cameron (SHR chief executive) and George Walker (chair of the SHR board) to the meeting. Each member of the group asked George and Michael a question, covering a range of topics and generating discussion amongst the group. The main talking points were:
- George and Michael thought that the sector has coped well over the last two years, and landlords have worked hard to maintain services. There is, undoubtedly, some catching up that still needs to be done, particularly around the number of people who remain in temporary accommodation. George and Michael also thought SHR coped well; with staff moving quickly to home working in March 2020 and SHR’s approach to regulation shifting to focus on the most serious cases and to support landlords during the pandemic.
- Affordability remains a key priority for SHR, and George and Michael welcomed the regional network’s rent affordability focus group which is looking into all household costs, not just rent. Michael noted that, like the rest of the sector, SHR is awaiting the outcome of work being carried out by the Scottish Government on a common definition for ‘’affordable’. Group members suggested that landlords should provide prospective tenants with details of all housing costs, for example including council tax and estimated fuel costs, during the allocation process.
- The rising cost of fuel bills is and will continue to be a challenge for tenants. George and Michael noted that whilst the cost of fuel is not directly the responsibility of a landlord, landlords can and do play an important role when it comes to the energy efficiency of their housing stock. Michael referred to the ZEST report recommendation that a fabric first approach is taken (as a means to contribute to achieving net zero), and that doing so would play to landlords’ strengths in terms of their knowledge and understanding of the technology which is needed to insulate homes. Achieving net zero, however, will be a huge challenge; particularly when it comes to how this is paid for. The ZEST report also recommended that the review of EESSH2 is brought forward, and so Michael recognised that SHR would need to provide landlords with clarity as soon as possible if this will affect the standards that they are required to achieve.
- George and Michael described the Covid-19 dashboard returns - which moved from monthly to quarterly - as incredibly valuable to help the Social Housing Resilience Group and Scottish Government understand the impact that the pandemic has had on social landlords. Members of the group also acknowledged the value in the data being published, and would welcome its continuation.
- The group, George and Michael discussed the responses to the Scottish Social Housing Charter consultation, noting that the general sense from respondents was that the Charter indicators currently in place are appropriate.
- Asked about the Scottish Government’s draft Rented Sector Strategy and how this might affect the role of SHR, George and Michael confirmed that they have had and will continue to have conversations with the Government around SHR’s role and contribution to achieving the outcomes of the strategy. There are proposals within the strategy for a regulator for the private rented sector, and George and Michael said that they are keen to see the outcomes of the consultation and subsequently how the Government might progress with this.
George and Michael thanked the group for inviting them, and left the meeting.
2. Other SHR updates
Stephen shared the headline findings from the latest COVID-19 quarterly return, following the publication of the dashboard data in November 2021. This included trend analysis on rent arrears, legal action, lets and homelessness.
Kelda spoke about SHR’s recently launched campaign to recruit 12 new Tenant Advisors, which TIS is supporting SHR with. Kelda thanked the group for their support in raising awareness already across their networks, and asked that they continue to do so until applications close on 14 February 2022. The group said that they would welcome any opportunities for them to support or work with the Tenant Advisors, perhaps by inviting the new Advisors to observe a future liaison group meeting, or to one of the local regional network meetings.
Stephen told the group about the recent appointment of Marieke Dwarshuis and Lindsay Paterson to the SHR board, who attended their first board meetings in November.
Kelda summarised the latest position with statutory intervention and updated engagement plans. Following Fairfield Housing Association’s transfer of engagements to Kingdom Housing Association, there are now no statutory intervention cases.
In terms of recent publications, Kelda told the group about SHR’s annual report and accounts, landlords’ Annual Assurance Statements, analysis of the RSLs’ annual loan portfolio returns, and the statutory intervention report for Ruchazie Housing Association. She also spoke about the ‘risks we will focus on’ report, and explained to the group that SHR staff are in the midst of carrying out this year’s annual risk assessment. As part of this, landlords have been invited to complete a health and safety survey, and a summary of the outcomes from this will be published after the risk assessment has been completed. Kelda highlighted that both Ian Brennan’s and Michael Cameron’s speeches at the SFHA Annual Finance Conference (which took place in November) were available to read on the SHR website. The news of Ian Brennan’s decision to leave his post as Director of Regulation was also shared with the group.
3. Region updates
Region 1 – The main update was about the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division upholding Historic Environment Scotland’s proposal to list five out of a group of eight multi-storey blocks within Aberdeen City Council’s housing stock. Tenants and residents await to see the impact of this decision.
Region 2 – There were no representatives from region 2 in attendance.
Region 3 – Bruce shared updates from ongoing and upcoming work being taken forward by tenant groups in East Ayrshire, including the annual rent review and consultation, SHIP review, scrutiny projects, a project on zero emissions aimed at school pupils, and obtaining more IT equipment to help ease isolation among tenants and residents. Margaret told the group about the ongoing review of East Renfrewshire’s Tenant Participation Strategy.
Region 4 – Shona spoke about work being taken forward by Link’s Scrutiny Panel to review Link’s approach to delivering advice and welfare services during the pandemic. John was pleased to announce that in North Lanarkshire, having received funding from the Scottish Government’s resilience fund, 200 iPads and Chromebooks had been purchased for the elderly.
Any other business
Kelda and Stephen shared the news with the group that SHR will be moving to a new office at 177 Bothwell Street by the end of 2023.
Date of next meeting
- 26 April 2022