Thousands of social housing managers will be required to study for qualifications as part of a push to professionalize the sector following the death of a two-year-old boy on a moldy floor.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove announced the changes after acknowledging that social housing residents were being “inexcusably let down”.
The cabinet minister said the change would “raise the bar” across the board after the tragic death of Awaab Ishak.
Awaab died in December 2020 of a respiratory condition caused by mold at his home in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.
In response to his death, ministers have proposed that landlords will have to investigate and fix damp and mold in social housing within strict time limits under what would become known as the Awaab Law.
In addition to those reforms, Gove announced new rules on Sunday that will mean around 25,000 managers across the sector will be required to have an appropriate level housing management qualification.
Managers must have a qualification which comes from a provider regulated by the examination control body Ofqual and which is equivalent to a level 4 or 5 certificate or diploma in housing.
Alternatively, they may have a foundation degree from the Chartered Institute of Housing.
The changes will be made through reforms to the Social Housing Bill (Regulations), according to the Department of Planning, Housing and Communities.
Officials said the new requirements will professionalize and drive the “necessary culture change” in the sector.
They said ensuring managers have the right qualifications will further align social housing with other sectors that provide front-line services, including social work, teaching and health and care services.
Any homeowner who fails to meet the requirements of the new standards could eventually receive an unlimited fine from the Social Housing Regulator, the department said.
Mr Gove said: “The Grenfell Tower tragedy and, more recently, the death of Awaab Ishak showed the devastating consequences of residents being inexcusably let down by substandard owners who consistently failed to listen to them.
“We know that many social housing residents are not receiving the service or respect they deserve.
“The changes we are implementing today will ensure that social housing managers across the country have the right skills and experience to deliver excellent service and raise standards across the board.”
The bill is the latest step in response to the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, with the Fire Safety Act being enacted and the Building Safety Act passed last year.
As Mr Gove’s department has already announced, the bill will give the social housing regulator strict new powers, allowing it to enter properties with just 48 hours’ notice and carry out emergency repairs with landlords footing the bill.
The legislation is expected to return to Parliament on March 1.
Gavin Smart, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “We welcome the Government’s focus and support for professionalism in housing.
“We believe that housing professionals should do everything possible to ensure that renters and residents have access to good quality, affordable housing; be treated with dignity and respect; and that their voices and opinions are heard and taken into account in the decisions that affect them.
“We look forward to working with the government to help organizations and individuals achieve the necessary qualifications under these new requirements.”
Grenfell United, a group of survivors and grieving relatives of victims of the west London tower fire that claimed 72 lives, said: “For six years we have worked tirelessly to hold government to account to change social housing for tenants across the country. .
“We never gave up. We push for professionalization and strong regulation to ensure that residents are treated with respect and humanity.
“While there is a long way to go, we welcome the amendment.
“We believe this will play a role in the legacy of positive change and make a significant difference for social housing tenants.”
Matthew Pennycook, Shadow Housing Minister for the Labor Party, said: “We know from the circumstances leading up to the fire in Grenfell and those surrounding the death of Awaab Ishak that poorly run social housing can literally kill.
“Therefore, it is essential that those who manage social tenant housing have the necessary qualifications and training to ensure that all tenants are treated with fairness, dignity and respect.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of the housing charity Shelter, said: “Thanks to the tireless campaigning and unremitting efforts of Grenfell United, this amendment will ensure that social housing owners are professionally qualified to do the job.”