Sunday, January 21, 2007

Regulation in housing - HAs, councils and accountability

I would recommend this week’s Inside Housing. In particular, the interview with Professor Martin Cave who is reviewing the regulation of social housing. (PDF available)

I was interested in the comments on regulatory frameworks – especially as its unclear whether the regulatory role of the Housing Corporation will move to Communities England. (I think there is a strong case for keeping regulation independent of this super agency.)

‘I think it is very unlikely that you would want a one-size-fits-all solution for providers of social housing,’ warns Professor Cave. ‘We’re exploring and looking forward to receiving evidence on the appropriateness of having a uniform system of regulation across local authorities, arm’s-length management associations, not-for-profit housing associations and other suppliers, including for profit organisations.

‘Clearly there are major differences in the underlying governance structures of those bodies. In the case of local authorities you have a democratic process that may make it less appropriate for an independent regulator to intervene in the process.’ But since, after all, the business of any landlord is providing services to tenants, there will be some regulatory consistency across the sector. ‘The resident in local authority housing or in housing association housing is basically interested in the same things and that suggests that there should be some degree of commonality in the regulatory arrangements to which those two types of services are subject to.’

While there is a need for flexibility rather a rigid “one-size-fits-all”, I don’t think that reliance on “a democratic process” when council tenants are in an electoral minority is necessarily adequate.

I certainly hope that the Cave review will place strong emphasis on tenant-driven accountability (both voice and choice - and in all the sectors of social housing) in reducing the need for external regulation.

1 comment:

Griff Parry, Liverpool said...

Couldnt agree more with the assertion that Housing Association regulation should stay seperate of this new super agency.

Such regulation needs to apply to all social housing providers, be totally independent and very rigorous and in the hands of the RSL tenants but also the wider community.

In Liverpool and other areas of the north we have witnessed at first hand how Housing Associations in their zeal to create redevelopment opportunities which both generate better revenue and kudos than does mere social housing provision, as well as destroying the evidence of decades of neglect and inefficiency have increased their holdings in areas identified for redevelopment and then encouraged decline by not reletting or maintaining properties whilst simultaneously decanting their own tenants to create the artifical impression of low demand to justify demolition and clearance whilst also portraying the impression that they are the solution rather than the problem. The Housing Corporation have looked on helplessly having compromised their regualtory ability by having previously funded such acquisitions and promised funding for the redevelopment policies

Pity the wider residnet community beyond the RSL tenants who have to live (often having stretched themselves to buy their own home)or are paying potentially higher rents to private landlords, in these artifical ghettos of the RSLs creation hence they need a good degree of control over RSLs as well as the tenants

In the real world such circumstances could never exist even with no regulation since commercially funded private housing providers could never afford to neglect their assets and lose so much income as they do not receive the generous publicly funded subsidies avaialble to RSLs