NIFHA welcomes DSD’s proposals for a new regulatory framework for social housing providers.
Housing associations recognise the need for effective regulation to provide assurance to tenants, politicians and funders. However for some time housing associations have felt that the approach to regulation that focused on processes rather than results imposed unreasonable bureaucratic burdens and gave insufficient emphasis to the outcomes being delivered for customers.
The new system should be based on robust outcome-focused standards around consumer standards, governance and financial viability. ‘Better regulation’ principles will help ensure the revised approach is proportionate, transparent, consistent and targeted.
NIFHA’s response to the consultation makes the following key points:
• We welcome the proposed regulatory framework and believe it can help further strengthen the housing association movement.
• Although it is beyond the scope of this consultation, the effectiveness and credibility of regulation depends on an independent regulatory function, ideally achieved through a dedicated independent regulator.
• The final regulatory framework would benefit from a fuller explanation of the need for social housing regulation and its fundamental objectives. These should be enshrined in legislation.
• More detail is needed on how the framework will be regulated in practice. Both the Better Regulation principles and Regulator’s Code can usefully guide implementation.
• Regulatory staff will require appropriate guidance and training in how to implement a more sophisticated and sometimes nuanced outcomes-focused approach.
• To avoid the unnecessary compliance burdens and duplication created by the new Charity Commission, DSD should legislate for housing associations to become ‘exempt’ charities.
• In the final regulatory framework, it would be helpful to have the standards, outcomes, ‘what this means’, and guidance presented together.
• Although the proposed regulatory standards are generally sound, the consumer standard could helpfully be developed, including separate home and tenancy outcomes
• The term ‘inspection’ has no place in the new regulatory regime and should be replaced with ‘engagement’.
• Whilst the Regulator may require new powers, much greater detail should be provided on why these are needed, the exact powers proposed and how they would operate in practice. This should be the subject of a further dedicated consultation.
• Improving the transparency and accountability of the regulator should be prioritised. Prior to the creation of an independent regulator, an annual report by the regulator including a self-assessment of its performance can help, as can the creation of an advisory committee.
A copy of the full response can be downloaded .here