Saturday, February 07, 2009

Words of warning and wisdom from the TSA for housing association boards

I am attending the National Housing Federation's Board Members' Conference. Yesterday's opening speaker was Anthony Mayer, the Chair of the new housing regulator, the Tenant Services Authority (TSA).

Anthony Mayer repeated TSA themes about the importance of boards. He stated that the TSA would be relating to both execs and non-execs. The TSA see boards as directing strategy and scrutinising executives. (Of course this is the theory of good governance – but sometimes the practice of being a rubber-stamp is far too common.)

Mayer warned of up-coming issues arising from the recession and credit crunch:

1) Re-financing: housing associations need to check on how much finance they have as banks are expecting significant re-pricing of interest when re-financing is necessary.

2) Impairment: with declining asset values there may be some collateral damage (my pun – not his) on association balance sheets.

3) Negative inflation: as rents are set in relation to RPI, budgeting and financial forecasting could be complicated if/when inflation turns negative.

Mayer told board members to ask about these issues. They are potentially ticking bombs in need of defusing – or, as part of robust risk management, at least contingency arrangements if they explode.

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