13 December 2021

2022 is going to be a significant year for building and fire safety, so we caught up with Victoria Moffett, Head of Building and Fire Safety, at the National Housing Federation to find out why.

Thank you, Victoria for taking the time out of your busy schedule in the run-up to the NHF Building and Fire Safety in Housing Conference to speak with us. We'll get straight to it.

What’s changed since the NHF’s last Building and Fire Safety in Housing conference in February 2021?

There have been a few notable changes in the relatively short time since our last conference, but there are two in particular. The Building Safety Bill has been published and is currently making its way through Parliament, and that’s an important milestone towards a new regulatory system for building safety. And the other is that the government has set out its view on buildings below 18m, in terms of risks being managed rather than remediated. At the NHF, we welcome the new legislation and the risk-based approach to buildings below 18m that the government has advocated, and housing associations will benefit from discussions about both at our conference.

Are any further changes expected between now and the upcoming conference in February 2022?

We’re currently waiting to hear more from Michael Gove following his review of the government’s building safety policies. That could be imminent and is likely focus on financial support for leaseholders, especially those in buildings under 18m that require remedial works. He has also said that he’ll withdraw previous government advice to building owners around safety risks in external wall systems, and we expect that the PAS 9980 on external wall appraisal and assessment will be published in its place.

What can housing associations do right now to prepare for these changes?

There’s already a huge amount of work underway among housing associations in preparing for the new regulatory system. We can always do more to hear from, and share with, others on how we’re all implementing new requirements. If you haven’t already, you could share your approaches with your peers for feedback and if you have some lessons that you’ve learned that the wider sector might benefit from, do get in touch with us.

Are there any areas in building safety where we’re still waiting for clarity?

Aside from the upcoming change in guidance that will bring clarity over government’s expectations for buildings under 18m, we’re also looking to understand more about the regulator’s approach to bringing higher-risk buildings into their remit. The NHF is advocating for this to be risk-based and we’ve been creating opportunities to raise this with government through the passage of the Building Safety Bill, as well as in conversations with the regulator directly.

The Building Safety Regulator is attending the conference to give an update. What can we expect from that session?

While the regulator can’t pre-empt any changes that might be made to the Building Safety Bill, it will undoubtedly have been planning for the transition period to the new regulatory system, so I’d expect they may be able to give further insight as to how they’ll be carrying out their future responsibilities.

The conference has dedicated time for networking and discussions. In your experience, why is that important for this topic?

There’s so much that we can learn from one another about how to implement new requirements. Different organisations will think about things differently, and we all have different residents and different buildings to consider. But if you want to scrutinise whether the approach you’re taking is the best one for your residents and your organisation, it’s worth talking to the other experts at the conference to see what you can learn from their experiences too.

The conference ends with reflections on the current political environment. Has this changed over the last year?

We have a new Secretary of State for Housing in Michael Gove, who will undoubtedly bring further change in government building safety policy. Since last year’s conference, the government has committed to an additional £3.5bn for remedial works in buildings 18m and over, and Mr. Gove has already indicated his views that those responsible - the ‘polluters’ – should take greater responsibility for paying for the crisis. So while the question of who should pay for defective buildings remains, we might be about to get different answers from new political leadership.

The Building and Fire Safety in Housing Conference takes place virtually 22 February 2022. Find out more and register your places today.

Victoria Moffett

Victoria Moffett is the Head of Building and Fire Safety programmes at National Housing Federation

Victoria leads the National Housing Federation’s building safety work, which focusses on supporting housing associations in their work to remediate buildings, shaping and preparing for the new regulatory system and developing long-term cultural change around safety. Victoria comes from a communications, policy and public affairs background, with experience in both housing and the charity sectors.

Building and Fire Safety in Housing Q & A with Victoria Moffett