The Housing Agency’s successful Interim regulation of Approved Housing Bodies has paved the way for a statutory code which will build confidence in the sector as demand increases.
The Housing Agency is the Interim Regulation Office for Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) at present. AHB’s sign up to regulation on a voluntary basis. Regulation is important to ensure proper governance of the sector as well as supporting building capacity and proper services for social housing tenants. The past year has brought a number of very positive developments for the regulation of AHBs. The Government’s Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, launched in July 2016 reaffirms the Government’s commitment to the introduction of statutory regulation in the AHB sector in 2017. Putting regulation on a statutory basis will support stronger regulation of the sector and equip the Regulator to take action where needed for the better protection of social housing tenants and the State’s housing assets.
The Housing Agency’s Regulation Office is responsible for regulating the governance, management and financial viability of Approved Housing Bodies signed up to the Voluntary Regulatory Code. 237 AHBs are now signed up, representing more than 90 per cent of the 30,000 total estimated housing stock in the sector, and with tenants that are now protected through regulation. The overall performance of the sector continues to be good and the Office is working closely with some AHBs that need improvements in order to meet the required standards.
The next priority for the Regulation Office is to develop and implement a Governance Standard over the coming year that will further support the sector to achieve the standards of governance required in the not-for-profit housing sector. The Office will also work with the sector on developing appropriate responses to the issues that have emerged from the most recent assessment of the sector.
The Regulation Office is conscious of the need to ensure a smooth transition to statutory regulation and it will continue to work with the sector and other key stakeholders in this regard. The interim Regulatory Committee has an advisory role to the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, supporting the development of legislation to establish a new regulator for AHBs and the statutory regulatory framework. We have engaged extensively with the Department of Housing, based upon the experience to date and the responsibilities and powers that the regulator will need moving forward.
In future there will be increasing demands on AHBs with greater exposure to private finance and risk; and a need for robust and effective regulation to build confidence and provide assurance. At the heart of all that the Regulation Office does is its mission to protect AHB assets and safeguard the interests of their current and future tenants by regulating for a well-governed, well managed and financially viable sector. There is much work to be done in preparing for the introduction of statutory regulation but the foundations of the new system have been laid through the Voluntary Code and the significant response by the sector to the principles of regulation.
The Interim Regulation Board and the Regulation Office have together done an exemplary job. The interim approach to regulation has been a positive route, facilitating the development of a statutory code based on real experience of what works for the sector. We learned from experience in other jurisdictions including England, Scotland and Wales and there has been international interest in our approach.
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