Monday, February 26, 2007

Social housing - the Hills report and the Cave review

The Hills report on social housing last week was a bit of an anti-climax. There was (thankfully) no suggestion that 4 million tenants should lose their security of tenure. However, given the problems of social housing, perhaps we could have expected some more radical proposals.

I was particularly disappointed that there was no reference to the role of mutualism in social housing – particularly housing co-operatives and tenant-led housing associations (like the Community Gateway in Preston).

(For those who do not have time to read the full report, there is an article by John Hills summarising his findings and recommendations in Inside Housing - pdf available.)

We are now waiting for the report of the Cave review on the regulation of social housing. The National Housing Federation have gone ahead and recommended a form of self-regulation for housing associations – despite the scepticism of many board members and managers in housing associations.

The submission of the lenders to the social housing sector (pdf available) suggests that housing associations will lose between £200million and £400million if self-regulation was introduced and housing associations had to borrow on commercial terms. The Council of Mortgage Lenders stress the importance of independent regulation of governance and finance although they recognise the role of self-regulation and accountability to residents in matters of service delivery.

The Housing Corporation response to the Cave review has also rejected self-regulation as “insufficient to protect resident and tax-payer interests”.

Interestingly both the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Housing Corporation want to “co-locate” regulation and investment – presumably under the umbrella of Communities England. I would favour an independent and strong but light(ish) touch Office of Housing Regulation overseeing a level-playing field for all social housing whether housing associations, local authorities or private sector.

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